Real Estate Agent of the Month Skye Michiels

Skye Michiels

Teacher’s Bet

By Kate Arcieri

Eleven years ago, Skye Michiels’ devotion to the real estate business nearly cost him the love of his life. That’s hard to picture when meeting him today. The Philly rainmaker and professional nice guy is well known around town for championing a WORK-LIFE balance at his blue-chip team, Skye Michiels and Associates, Real Estate With Heart. Team meetings begin with gratitude sharing. His agents track meaningful connections over dollars. And the team’s encouraged to spend weekends with their families.

So It Begins
Skye had always felt born to educate. He studied teaching while rowing varsity crew at Syracuse University, then took a job at a suburban Philadelphia school after graduation. If not for strained finances he might never have ventured into selling in the first place.

“About two years into teaching I was living paycheck-to-paycheck,” he says. “A fellow teacher recommended I get my real estate license and practice on the side.”

In 2002, he took the plunge and earned his real estate license. Intended to be a side job, his real estate career quickly grew into more and his life became anything but balanced. He was working full-time as a teacher and using his nights and weekends to sell real estate. Money was rolling in, but at a cost.

“I was working all the time,” he says. “I would wake up at 6 a.m and teach until 3 p.m. Then, I’d start selling real estate until 8 or 9 p.m. When I got home, I’d grade papers and prepare for the next day. I’d wake up and do it all over again. There was no stopping.”

After dealing with overwhelming stress that affected both his health and relationships, Skye realized one of the jobs would have to go.

“Cutting out real estate would have perhaps been the sensible choice,” he says. “It had never been a part of the plan.”

Three years after earning his license, Skye put away his teaching degree and devoted his energies to real estate full time.

“There were times when I had doubts – I had left a steady paycheck for something so unsure,” he says. “But my mom always taught me not to fear the unknown and to have confidence in my decisions. Looking back, it’s pretty awesome. I’ve been able to change my family’s financial future with that decision.”

And change his future he did. That onetime side hustle is now a true real estate empire with a 10-member team that closed almost $60 million in sales last year.

Real Estate with Heart
What worked for Skye early on was that he genuinely cared about the needs of his real estate clients and that came across loud and clear. So when it came time to write up his business plan and begin laying bricks for his real estate empire, he went with that. He centers his work around doing everything with heart – being all-in for his clients and his team.

Today that focus is reflected in the tagline for his Keller Williams team, “Real Estate With Heart.” The phrase is often interpreted as a nod to Skye-and-team giving back to the community. While that is part of the business – with a portion of every sale going to Habitat for Humanity – the tagline runs deeper, into the culture of the real estate team. The focus is on cultivating personal connections more than on marketing.

“Our business is based on referrals,” he says. “It’s a more profitable, more sustainable and, frankly, a more enjoyable model.”

Last year, Skye and his team closed 164 sales, 144 of which came from the team’s network – people they already knew and people who had been referred to the team. Only 20 came from cold leads generated from online advertising.

“When you meet a cold lead, you don’t have a pre-existing relationship and it takes longer to build trust,” Skye says. “They’re understandably wary of sharing too much personal information. With a referral, there is already a certain level of trust because their friend or co-worker or brother or aunt took time out of their schedule to tell them to talk to me. There is less of a barrier and we’re able to get the information we need to help them get what they want.”

With an Internet client, Skye shares, there is a level of competition that doesn’t exist with referrals. The client will reach out to 10 different agents and it becomes a race to get back to them. With referrals, agents can reach out to the client when there is time to review everything and begin planning the next steps.

“I’ve always enjoyed working with referrals,” Skye says. “They tend to be friends or colleagues of my friends. There is a shared connection, which just makes the transaction that much more enjoyable.”

A Return to Teaching
While Skye is proud of his team’s sales numbers, there is another number he believes better reflects what he’s built – 13.

“It’s the number of children that the agents on my team – including me – have,” he says. “I’m proud of that number because while we’ve been building this business, we’ve raised 13 kids – with the help of our spouses, of course. I’m proud to have built a business where people can have great lives not just great wealth. I want them to love what they do and I think everyone on our team does love it.”

And, as a bonus, Skye has been brought back to what he loves to do.

“Teaching has always been my calling,” he says. “While I’ve had the joy of teaching my clients as I work with them over the last 10 years, getting back to a formal teaching role feels right.”

Skye has added a structured educational component to every agent’s experience with the team. He has planned a curriculum of continuing education for his staff that is delivered in bite-sized segments during team meetings. He will occasionally assume the old mantle and deliver the module himself. Other times, he brings in an outside expert.

In the first week of each month, Skye turns his focus to one-on-one teaching.

“I set up a two-hour meeting with each agent,” he says. “We go through their business plan. We set goals. We go into their business. The rest of the month, they work toward the goals we set and we get to circle back and build on their business more the next month. It’s really a full circle system.”

Skye also reaches out to agents outside of his team. He’s currently teaching a course for agents in his Keller Williams office and other offices in the suburbs. The class gives him a fresh room of students to enjoy and also builds his referral network outside of his current sphere.

“When an empty nester sells their home with one of my suburb ‘students,’ I will occasionally get a call to help them find their new condo in the city,” he says.

For Skye, the human side of the business has always driven him. Beyond making him a better REALTOR® for his clients, it has allowed his business to thrive.

“If you just focus on numbers and money, your soul will suffer,” he says. “If you focus on life and gratitude, the numbers are going to come and it’s going to return to you.”

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