Written by The Business Journal Staff
Joanna Odabashian, Team Leader/CEO
Keller Williams Fresno
What we do: We are a training and consulting company in the business of selling real estate.
Education: Graduated from Fresno High School in 1992 and Fresno State in 1997 with a Liberal Arts Degree. In 1998 I received a bilingual teaching credential from Fresno State. I was an elementary school and high school teacher until 2006.
Family: Husband- Matt Odabashian (Chemistry teacher and soccer coach at Central High East), Son- Kelly Odabashian 12- Student at Tenaya, Daughter Lauren Odabashian Student at Starr. My parents are Bryan and Jennifer Martin and are also 2 of my business partners.
Please tell us about your career path up to your current position, Joanna.
I didn’t go to school to be a REALTOR or CEO. I went to school to be a teacher. I received my real estate license in 2005, while I was still a teacher. In 2006, I began selling real estate with my grandfather’s (Jack Chamberlin) company Westland Realty and Investment, Inc. In 2008, my mother, Jennifer Martin took over the company when my grandfather decided to retire. Westland had 10 agents at the time. We were looking for ways to provide more value to the agents. In 2009, we decided Keller Williams Realty was a fit for us and applied to be granted a franchise. (My business partners are my parents and my brother Jared Martin). In May of 2009, we were granted a franchise. We interviewed several people for the CEO position because we all wanted to continue selling real estate, not really run the company. We couldn’t find the right fit. I stepped into the role to “temporarily” fill the void. Five and one-half years later I am still in the role. I LOVE IT! Currently, Keller Williams Realty International is the largest franchise by agent count in North America. KWRI is privately owned, and 98 percent of our 680 market centers are profitable. Today, Keller Williams Fresno has 130 agents. Since opening in May of 2009 we have closed about 4,300 real estate transactions and have impacted many lives. We are ranked No. 3 in units sold by individual office and No. 4 by broker. Climbing to the top is a process, not an event! We have a huge vision for how we intend to grow. Keller Williams Realty was ranked by Training Magazine as the No. 2 training company in the world (Jiffy Lube beat us). The training and support I have received from my business partners, and Keller Williams University in business financials, models, systems, organizational leadership, and mindset has enriched my life. I seriously never thought I would be running a real estate company.
What prompted you to get into real estate, Joanna?
I was prompted to get in to real estate by several of my family members who helped me see that I needed to dream bigger. I had forgotten how to dream! I was at a place where living on a “fixed” income and a “fixed” mindset weren’t going to allow me to take care of my family the way I wanted to. I needed to be able to dream about the future again and real estate allowed me to unlock the ceiling. I left my career as a teacher February 16, 2006, in the middle of the school year and started my real estate career February 17. It was the boldest move I have ever made. It has taken a lot of hard work, and hasn’t been easy. It was the best move I could have made. I am so glad I leaped!
What are your duties as a team leader/CEO for Keller Williams?
My duties as CEO prohibit me from selling homes. My role is to help agents grow profitable businesses, to grow the company, retain agents and control the bottom line. I consult. I teach. I recruit. Being team leader is the hardest and most rewarding job in our company, in my opinion. Where you can go after being a KW Team Leader is ANYWHERE!
What are the advantages of being a Spanish speaker in this market, Joanna?
Business is about relationships. Speaking two languages allows me greater freedom and opportunity to build relationships. As real estate becomes more global, I can: help local Spanish speakers with real estate needs, refer clients in Spanish speaking countries to other agencies and educate agents and business owners in Spanish speaking countries to the benefits of Keller Williams so they can grow successful businesses as well.
What was the best advice you ever received, Joanna?
My answer to that would depend on the day. Today that advice is, “Your business grows to the extent that you do! Never stop learning.”
What are your roots in the Central Valley, Joanna?
I was born in Visalia, and lived in Orange, Calif. until a few days before my 7th birthday. I spent my 7th birthday at Woodward Park. I attended Mt. View Christian School, Powers and Bullard Talent. I graduated proudly from Fresno High where I was an involved student and a cheerleader. My family is not a Spanish speaking family. I learned to speak Spanish because of three great Spanish teachers, two at Bullard Talent, Sras. Fitzgerald and Belton. Fred Savala was my Spanish teacher from 9-12th grade and had a huge impact on my life. As I mentioned earlier, I graduated from Fresno State in 1997.
What was your very first job and what did you learn from it, Joanna?
My first job was from 1989-1991 as a lifeguard at Wild Water Adventures (Clovis Lakes then). I learned the importance of taking a job seriously. Peoples’ lives depended on me. I learned the most though working at Outback Steakhouse in college. Lloyd Everett, then owner, taught me the importance of “the right people for the right job” and that teamwork and fun are important in any business. I still have relationships with several people I used to work with at Clovis Lakes and Outback! You never know who you will meet on your path and how that meeting could impact your life.
What do you like to do in your spare time, Joanna?
In my spare time I love going to my kids’ soccer games. I love going to concerts with Matt. I love connecting people and learning. I love going on bike rides. I love reading books. And I love singing. My co-workers and friends know I love karaoke. I’m not a great singer, but that doesn’t matter. I feel so good inside when I sing!