By Jim Denton
January 3, 2023

Impact on Edmond: Mo Anderson

Learn the impact former CEO of Keller Williams Mo Anderson has had and some of her keys to success.
Mo Anderson is well-known throughout Edmond for her leadership. (Photo: <a href="https://edmondbusiness.com/author/brent-fuchs/">Brent Fuchs</a>)
Mo Anderson is well-known throughout Edmond for her leadership. (Photo: Brent Fuchs)

“Never, never, never, never, quit!” was the immediate reply of Mo Anderson when asked what her secret sauce for success was. “Only people who fail quit. Everyone else learns.”

Such assuring statements are typical of the former CEO of Keller Williams International, Oklahoma Hall of Famer, teacher, writer, keynote speaker, and successful businessperson. Mo is the widely known CEO of Austin-based Keller Williams, the world’s largest real estate franchise by agent count. Keller Williams International has more than 1,100 offices and 200,000 associates around the globe. The franchise currently ranks No. 1 in units and sales volume in the United States.

Generosity

One of the ways Mo and her husband, Richard Anderson, have bronzed their fingerprints on our city is through their gifts of public art displayed prominently around town. I asked her about the donations of the sculptures.

She replied, “You know they say a gift is never really a gift unless you want to keep it. The Sacagawea statue was the one that I wanted to keep and add to our personal collection.”

The thoughtful works attract visitors to our revitalized downtown area and provide a uniqueness to which other towns only aspire. Mo is one of the founding owners of Edmond’s Keller Williams Realty offices. The offices have raised more than $1 million over the last eight years for Edmond charities through its annual RED (Renew, Energize and Donate) Day Run. Over 1,800 runners were in last year’s run, and the vote-leading charity received $56,000. Seven other charities received substantial donations. Every charity that enters receives $1,000.

Mo factually pointed out with satisfaction, “It would be difficult to find an Edmond company that outgives Keller Williams.”

Faith and business working together 

Under Mo’s leadership, Keller Williams International has a uniqueness that’s difficult for many business observers to understand in today’s secular world.

“I tell them it’s about God, family, and business — in that order,” Mo said. “I cannot believe that a farm girl from Oklahoma can teach you something, so get out your pencils and write this sucker down!”

That statement serves Keller Williams to attract like-minded people.

“The issue is God could be whatever faith you are,” Mo continued. “For me, it is the God of Abraham and Isaac.”

There’s a great understanding among all who attend the Keller Williams annual meetings where each major world religious faith (Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Judaism, and Christian) says a prayer. Then each interprets their prayer in two minutes with a “no applause” policy. This allows each group to present their customs and creates an atmosphere of belonging.

“In the end, it’s about the higher purpose of business: to give, care, and share. It’s what we do at Keller Williams,” Mo concluded.

Entrepreneurship

Mo Anderson, former CEO of Keller Williams International, has been a staple of the Edmond community for decades. (Photo: Brent Fuchs)

Asked for advice to young businesspeople just starting an enterprise, Mo presented three attributes: work ethic, mindset, and faith.

“We have a coddled generation now that we’ve spoiled,” Mo said. “My work ethic was established on a farm, and I knew how to do hard work. I milked cows, dug potatoes, snapped beans, and shelled peas. The work never ends. If you start a business, you better be prepared to work 70 hours a week. So, examine your work ethic!”

Mo continued, “Giving birth to a new enterprise, if it’s entrepreneurial, is very difficult. And it has a lot of birth pangs. I’ve done it over and over, and it is hard!”

On mindset, Mo had this to say. “No matter what happens, you will not quit! It’s that perseverance, raw tenacity to keep going when the going is rough.”

And finally, Mo said, “You must nurture your faith. It is needed in the business world because you make better decisions when you know what you believe.”

Hiring

I also asked Mo for advice on the hiring process. She said Keller Williams International’s process involves four key components:

  • a preliminary interview and a candidate DiSC® assessment
  • three levels of reference vetting
  • a comprehensive interview with a formal behavioral assessment
  • a final meeting with the candidate about a hiring decision

“Go to a class that teaches this process and learn how to hire before ever starting a company,” Mo said. One question Gary Keller, the founder of Keller Williams, asked Mo in her interview to be his CEO and partner was, “What have you done since high school or college that you’re proud of?” Mo responded with, “How much time do you have?” She was prepared and had an extensive list of accomplishments at the tip of her tongue.

Mo relayed a colorful story about one of the small Keller Williams offices spending too much time hiring inexperienced personnel without success. The team leader in this office scheduled two candidates, and Mo came in to demonstrate how to conduct personnel interviews. 

The first gentleman came in. Mo greeted him, “So glad to meet you! This will be a long or a short interview. We need only one person for this position, and our team leaders are here to watch me interview you. Are you okay with that?” The gentleman agreed and sat down.

Mo started, “I can’t wait to ask you the magical question! Here it is: What have you done that you’re proud of in your life since high school or college?” 

He said nothing for a while, then asked, “What have I done? What have I done?” After about 45 agonizing seconds, an exasperated Mo authoritatively announced, “Time’s up!” and sent him on his way. Mo told her trainees, “If he can’t tell me anything, then it’s no deal! We’re looking for: initiative, discipline, and fire in the belly!”

Mo posed the same question to the next candidate, a young woman. The woman leaned forward, put her hands together on her knees, and began talking about “organizing a spring sing, being elected president of her sorority, this club, that club, on and on!” Mo proclaimed, “Hire her!” The young woman later became a Keller Williams rookie of the year.

Mo gave an example of moms staying at home to raise a family and then interviewing to come back into the workforce through the real estate world. These are often great candidates but are overlooked because they’ve been out of business circles. 

“You’ve got to take a little bit of a different approach,” Mo said. “It’s then our job to uncover what she has done outside the home that showed leadership ability or helped her family. Examples: Brownies, Boy Scouts, sports teams, PTA committees, garden club, etc. See if they took the initiative somewhere.”

Onboarding employees

When asked how she onboards new team members, Mo replied, “Number one: Give them the history of the company. This can be done verbally or by video. It’s important that a person know the history of the enterprise.” 

Second, she discusses her expectations in the following categories:

  • Personal expectations, which include being pleasant, attending company functions, and doing what needs to be done around the office
  • Business expectations, like being on time and respecting others. She then reviews the job description and the specific program Keller Williams uses to develop its people.
  • Philanthropy, such as giving back through KW Cares, Keller Williams’ charity; involvement in KW KidsCan ministry, where employees are asked to teach a class for younger people; and playing an active role in RED Day.

Lastly, an office tour ends with a Q&A with other new people. A leader will then ask the larger group, “What did we not tell you that you need to know?”

Employee retention

One of employers’ and business owners’ most significant issues is talent retention. Mo said in the Keller Williams organization, employee retention is the office’s market center administrator (MCA) responsibility. The MCA tracks the team’s activities by recording transactions, writing notes to them if they miss training sessions, and calling the employees when a problem is noted.

Mo (age 85) currently works as an operating principal with a local Keller Williams office in Oklahoma City. She helps them improve their culture and business results. Mo provided me with a litany of the classes, group meetings, and events that Keller-Williams’ offices put on for their agents. Those events include “mastermind” groups that discuss problems of all levels of agents. These meetings are not just for Keller Williams agents but for other realtors and interested businesspeople.

The uniqueness of Edmond

I asked Mo what’s unique about the Edmond community. Her reply? She loves the small-town atmosphere.

“Everybody has each other’s back,” she said. “There have been times when there’s a need for people to jump at the chance to help. I remember when Mobile Meals ran out of money. As a community, we got that organization going again in no time.”

About opposition to business expansion in Edmond, Mo added, “Don’t listen to the naysayers. If it doesn’t grow, it dies! Who’s going to build streets? Or fund our police? Keep the growth!”

Connecting the dots

Mo’s autobiographical book, “A Joy-Filled Life: Lessons from A Tennant Farmer’s Daughter Who Became a CEO,” contains “joy” in the title.

“Joy is the Holy Spirit dwelling in you,” she said. “Joy is the deeper level of contentment found in your being. For example, people with loved ones who have alcohol or drug problems and families who’ve lost their homes in tornadoes or hurricanes can still have joy even in life’s trials. It’s amazing!”

In the book’s last chapter, Mo writes Richard has encouraged her to look back and connect the dots and see the big picture that God has created through them. Richard added that God makes everything connect because of his promise to us.

Mo and Richard certainly have had a joy-filled life and an amazing legacy here in Edmond. The pleasure has been mine to have been associated with them over the years.

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About Jim Denton

Jim Denton, CPA/PFS, CGMA is Partner Emeritus of Arledge & Associates, PC where he is responsible for providing leadership to the firm’s Wealth Management firm, Summit Capital Advisors, LLC. Mr. Denton empowers his clients, so they may live their best life. He may be reached by email at jim@jmacpas.com.

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