A New North Star
The Culture of Collaboration at Keller Williams Jackson Hole
by Jennifer Walton
It’s known that a strong culture of collaboration promotes synergy, fosters innovation, and enhances overall performance. It encourages cooperation over competition and creates a supportive environment where individuals and teams can thrive, collectively achieving goals that may be beyond their capabilities. When that culture exists, it inspires, excites, and empowers those nearby. Serial entrepreneur, real estate broker, business owner, and developer Tyler Davis has embarked on his next adventure with an unyielding desire to form another successful collaboration.
Davis began his real estate journey after earning his degree in Finance at the University of Wyoming as a Division 1 wrestler. Perhaps financing methods and wrestling techniques prepared him for property management, development, and real estate investments throughout Wyoming because, in 2017, he founded Wyoming Property Management. His hard-earned results in managing over 300 doors and creating another 100 housing units through ground-up and repurposed development demonstrated his strength in problem-solving and collaboration. However, Davis, who began his career at REMAX (later bought by Sotheby’s International Realty) and spent time at Christie’s (Jackson Hole Real Estate Associates), knew when Compass purchased it that although it is advantageous to have a recognized national brand and its accompanying technology, it is also essential that agents have a voice and decision-making abilities in their local markets. In other words, Davis sought more focus on the agents doing most of the work and a better financial model reflecting their commitment and collaboration. And that formula got Davis thinking that it was time to bring the first Keller Williams Market Center to Wyoming.
“If there is no chance, I can live with failure, but I can’t live without trying.”
—Tyler Davis, Founder, Keller Williams Jackson Hole
When he began floating the business concept to a handful of agents in his core group, they were skeptical, and a few even initially declined to meet with him. But Davis, who rarely succumbs to negativity, replied candidly, “If there is no chance, I can live with failure, but I can’t live without trying.” As one would expect, once they met and discussed the possibilities, he had over 40 agents within nine months. One of Davis’s gifts is his ability to listen thoughtfully and consider alternatives. Also ingrained in his character is his willingness to adapt and to lead by example. It may be a cliché, but his work ethic requires him to share what others say is TMI (too much information). “I’m an open book and tend to share information, not keep secrets. I have respect for diverse perspectives, skills, and backgrounds, and with that comes open dialogue and constructive disagreement,” he says. “I realized I proposed a different model, and I know agents don’t come for simply money. I want to think they joined Keller Williams Jackson Hole for the intangibles that make our company culture collaborative.”
Further, Davis notes that his goal is to compete with the biggest names in town, but his ultimate goal is to be the best. “We are less than a year old, with an office in Jackson, and we’re expanding with offices in Victor, Driggs, and Thayne,” Davis explains. “The agents are successful for who they are as agents, and we want them to be where they want to be. Keller Williams, a national and international brand, allows us to do what we want and need in our local market. We make most of our decisions here in our offices, which benefits us all.”
Another element Davis brings to the equation is that he offers agents the opportunity to invest in properties with a percentage ownership—giving agents other sources of income, helping their businesses, and growing their outside portfolios. And Davis adds, “These are not short-term rentals or hotels; everything I’ve collaborated on in the private sector or partnered on with the town and county has been long-term housing and affordable units. I am committed to the community and its daily challenges. I love what I do, but I also enjoy the battle more often than you would think, and maybe that comes from my college wrestling and mixed-martial arts experiences.”
Wherever Davis finds his inspiration and dedication, the colleagues and agents who know him well point to his motivation, curiosity, inclination to trust, and appreciation for solutions and creative problem-solving. Not surprisingly, he has exhibited those characteristics with other local businesses and projects, which has already made Keller Williams a natural place for people to connect.
“I realized I proposed a different model, and I know agents don’t come for simply money. I want to think they joined Keller Williams Jackson Hole for the intangibles that make our company culture collaborative.”
—Tyler Davis, Founder, Keller Williams Jackson Hole
After Davis communicated his clear vision and inspired everyone to align their efforts and work toward it, he activated an inclusive and participatory environment where everyone’s input is valued. Meet the multi-talented team that calls Keller Williams Jackson Hole home.
In 2009, after selling their boutique real estate company, Teton Village Realty, to Sotheby’s International Realty and then spending a decade there before being recruited by Christie’s in 2019, Jeff and Kelli Ward were a tad surprised when their Christie’s home of two years was sold to Compass. “I have always loved being a part of this small town and its community and supporting local businesses and nonprofits, but after giving it a chance under new ownership, I realized the company’s culture would change to one controlled by corporate. I didn’t feel like where we were was our final home,” says Jeff.
And so, after Davis approached the Wards and wowed them with his new idea, and after the Wards gathered with other agents who felt similarly about building a locally-owned company, even if it came with the inconvenience of rebranding and uprooting again, they made a move to Keller Williams. “It’s about the team of professionals within the organization,” says Jeff, a real estate veteran whose expertise includes luxury single-family home sales, condo-hotel development/sales, and commercial real estate. “And how they do business in a small town. That’s what we hung our hat on, and Davis.” He adds, “Tyler is a very smart, stand-up guy, and I got the sense that he was intent on bringing a new level of passion into a company. He was the first to admit that it wasn’t something he felt he could do by himself and in order to create a credible company with a new flag in our very competitive real estate community, he wanted successful agents who had been in the business for a while.”
A California native who relocated after graduating from the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business and has a deep-rooted history in the area, Jeff realized that after 27 years in Jackson Hole, real estate was steering away from locally based brokerages. “The people are here, but the controls are handled remotely, and regrettably, how decisions are made at a distance can impact our culture and community. We want to be part of that control on a local level,” he shares. Although the Wards had changed brands three times in a handful of years, they are thrilled to be with a group of individuals “whom we trust implicitly, which is a huge deal, and of course, Tyler, who continued to do what he said he would through this entire process.”
The Wards have anchored their business on long-lasting relationships with their clients, many of whom are repeat, and many they consider friends. “We’ve always had a platform of customer service; as we begin a relationship, we introduce our clients to the people and places we love most in Jackson. It’s about building a great foundation, not just a transactional-based situation,” says Jeff. “And we focus on helping everyone, a young local couple looking to purchase an attainable or affordable home or guiding high-net-worth individuals seeking residency in Wyoming. We want to ensure that people who work with us feel comfortable and supported.” And that extends to the office too. “We are the first to congratulate each other when we have successes, and that’s meaningful because it didn’t always feel that way in the past.” Suffice it to say; the Wards found their home.
“It’s about the team of professionals within the organization. And how they do business in a small town.”
–Jeff Ward, Real Estate Agent, Keller Williams Jackson Hole
Opportunities rise and fall, and when the opportunity to join Keller Williams arose, “I was looking for a change from my previous firm, one with more energy and vitality. I wanted to be part of something greater than just another real estate firm. I wanted to be affiliated with a local firm that started from the ground up, with like-minded brokers who were also committed and passionate about being part of a success story,” says Ian Osler, a Jackson local since 1995 with nearly two decades of experience in investment properties, residential homes, and land.
Osler’s intuition to move offices after 16 years benefited him well. Now that he has been at KWJH since its opening, he confirms that the atmosphere is unique. “There’s a different culture here at Keller Williams, it’s very supportive, local, and homegrown, and that was a big part of Tyler’s vision,” he says.
Connection to one’s community is vital, and Osler understands that and speaks to clients easily as a nearly 30-year resident and husband and father to two boys. “Our business is like all others in that clients expect that you’re an expert in your field and that you can communicate easily about the community’s assets and the local real estate market. All brokers need to ask good questions of their clients; they need to have a keen understanding of what their needs are,” he says. “Clients immediately pick up on your energy, and knowing about a wide range of subjects and interests is important, especially when serving someone considering a significant financial decision.”
“I like changing people’s opinions about realtors. I love going above and beyond for clients and forming lifelong relationships.”
–Kelsey Spaulding, Real Estate Agent, Keller Williams Jackson Hole
And seasoned agents know there’s more than their connection to the community; there’s also their connection with their clients. Osler shares his experience raising two boys, 10 and 12, with potential new families. “Jackson is a wonderful place to raise kids; my kids know how lucky they are to live here. The school system, the numerous outdoor pursuits, and the safe environment are prerequisites for investing in a resort community like ours,” he adds. “I enjoy welcoming new families, and often my children become friends with my clients’ kids—it’s fun to see.”
Osler’s enthusiasm is apparent when reiterating his focus on a locally-owned office ambiance. “It appeared to me quickly after initial meetings with Tyler that this was an opportunity I had to be a part of. This has led to a new brokerage family and, more than likely, a success story,” he says. Osler knows that connecting to his community enriches his life and contributes to the well-being and vitality of the place he calls home and the people who make it feel like home.
A dozen years ago, Minnesotan-born Kelsey Spaulding decided that Jackson Hole was home. It didn’t take long for her sincerity, work ethic, and service-oriented professionalism to make a mark at a top-producing team in the valley, where she gained years of valuable experience. Later, she was at JHREA/Christie’s when Compass acquired it and where she received the Teton Board of Realtors Professional Excellence Award, Top 4 Sales Volume, and Top 3 Transaction Volume titles in 2021. But, like other agents who felt the necessity for local leadership, she also determined “that if we are in a business that sells local real estate, we want it to be for a company that understands the local market and gives back to the community.”
Although Spaulding was excited about the idea of starting a brokerage from the ground up when Davis approached her, she initially responded ‘no,’ as it was too difficult of a decision to leave the brokers she had great respect for and had started her career with. “Tyler and I respected each other, having interacted on a few deals, and we are part of the younger generation in real estate. During our discussions, I discovered something I hadn’t expected about Tyler—his high EQ, which in addition to his work ethic, is impressive for a young leader in the community,” Spaulding says. “As time passed and he held fast to his vision as he said he would, it became apparent that many of the agents I held in high regard, and who were my mentors, people I enjoyed being around every day, were taking the move seriously. That’s when I decided to jump in; it was important to be surrounded by those brokers who helped me to get where I was. And Tyler is hands-down someone you want to have at the helm of your company.”
Spaulding believes that KWJH’s goal to achieve a sense of collaboration has been met, and she’s enjoying those interactions and her job more than ever. “I like changing people’s opinions about realtors. I love going above and beyond for clients and forming lifelong relationships,” she says. “As an agent, it’s important to me to help clients find a way to give back to the community—learning about nonprofits, attending local events, participating in clubs—I think that’s our most important role.” And, naturally, being an advisor to one of the more significant purchases or sales they will make, whether a deed-restricted condo or a luxury multi-million-dollar home.
“I have a long runway ahead of me to work in real estate. My career is a significant part of my life, and I’ve chosen real estate because I love it,” says Spaulding.
Homesteading, home, and loving your home—fourth-generation Jackson Hole native Chad Budge’s maternal and paternal great-grandparents homesteaded in Jackson Hole in what is now Grand Teton National Park, so Budge’s home is where the Tetons live. A veteran real estate professional, Budge had been a partner in Teton Shadows Realty before selling to Sotheby’s International Realty and later founded Jackson Hole Real Estate Associates (JHREA) with his partners in 2009, which subsequently as Christie’s sold to Compass. Real estate has been his life, along with skiing, boating, and motorcycle-riding with his wife (and business partner) Dianne.
As an owner of three real estate companies over the last three decades, Budge’s experience is well-known. When asked why he decided to join Keller Williams, his answer is to the point: “It’s locally owned. Period.” Before his move from Compass, where he had sold his shares, it bothered him that it was not locally owned, but true to his nature, he vowed to “stick it out.” But he recalls warmly that Tyler “kept bugging me, for lack of a better word, and when he gave me his outline of what he was attempting, I told him I disagreed.” However, a few weeks later, Davis returned, agreeing with Budge’s idea “that he would do it like this,” and the spark of collaboration was born. “I was very impressed with how willing Tyler is to hear other suggestions and approaches, and that’s exactly what he did and has done,” says Budge. “And that’s when we decided to move with my wife, and daughter, Rebekkah Kelley—all simultaneously, which was a tough decision—starting and building a company all over again.” Yet, Budge is in the real estate business, which is also the family business, and his passion for both is palpable.
“People ask me every day, ‘Why don’t you retire?’ We are fortunate to be able to retire if we want to, but our whole family lives, eats, and breathes real estate 24/7.”
–Chad Budge, Real Estate Agent, Keller Williams Jackson Hole
“People ask me every day, ‘Why don’t you retire?’ We are fortunate to be able to retire if we want to, but our whole family lives, eats, and breathes real estate 24/7,” Budge adds. “Frankly, it’s fun to help Tyler build a new company again. I expect Keller Williams Jackson Hole to be the number-one company within two more years. It’s the fastest-growing company right now, and my personal goal is to bring it to the top.”
The North Star is a fixed point in the sky that travelers have historically used for navigation, evoking a sense of wonder and awe while symbolizing inspiration and guidance for centuries. It is a powerful metaphor for guiding a new company toward its goals, aligning its stakeholders, and helping set the course for its growth and success. Locate your North Star at Keller Williams and connect to collaborate with a team that will bring you home to Jackson Hole.