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Here we grow again – kwELITE welcomes new, innovative team leader/CEO

kwELITE Co-Founders Jeff Cohn, left, Paul Richardson, Renee Mueller, new kwELITE CEO/team leader Dakotah Smith, and kw team members from Columbus, Omaha and Kearney, among others, pose for a group selfie on Tuesday at the Omaha headquarters.

OMAHA – When successful real estate broker and sales strategy leader Dakotah Smith sought out Elite Real Estate Systems Co-Founder Jeff Cohn in fall 2020, he was just hoping to learn more about kwELITE Real Estate’s rapid success and growth. 

“It was an exploratory conversation. I knew Jeff Cohn was doing great things. There was a great buzz around town for him, about the team – I heard about lots of production and a nice office. That’s all I knew,” Smith recalled. “But when I came in the doors of it and understood the opportunities they were developing in real time for agents, ancillary businesses, vendors, across the state – it really intrigued me.” 

Smith was a well-established broker for Redfin, licensed in Nebraska and Iowa and responsible for managing the Redfin team in both states. But extensive conversations with Cohn and kwELITE Operating Principal Paul Richardson led to a massive development. On Tuesday, April 19th, Smith was formally introduced to the kwELITE team across the state and members of the ancillary businesses as the new kwELITE Real Estate team leader/CEO for Nebraska.

kwELITE Real Estate is a one-stop-shop and comprehensive tech-powered company that prides itself in providing clients a simple, customized home buying-and-selling-experience with eight locations throughout Nebraska so far.

In his new role, Smith will focus on driving expansion by helping grow the brand across the region and building upon the established culture, as well as coaching teams and individual agents to achieve their goals. 

The kwELITE arm of Keller Williams Realty was founded by Cohn, Richardson and Renee Mueller in August 2020 and has skyrocketed in success ever since. It went from 25 to 188 agents in 18 months, retaining 74 out of 84 in the first year. There were 129 agents in 2021 and a staggering 125 were retained, proving the culture is unlike any other.

“Even though we’ve grown very quickly, we also had a very low level of attrition,” Richardson said. “Because we’re aligned with people first, not brokerage first. I think kwELITE is the tip of the sphere for Keller Williams. 

“And we’re the fastest-growing real estate company in the history of Nebraska outside of acquisition – kwELITE is thriving.”

Mueller echoed that sentiment.

“When I think of kwELITE, it’s never been just Nebraska … it’s about providing solutions for real estate brokerages all across the country to survive, maneuver and thrive in any market,” she said. “This industry is drastically changing and will continue to do so as technology advances us much quicker and the consumer demands more services and efficiency. We simply want to be the solution.”

Smith was all smiles as he spoke to an audience of more than 100 people in kwELITE’s Omaha Market Center, 17838 Burke St., Suite 102. He hasn’t felt more free professionally in years, enticed by the possibilities that lie ahead.

“I feel energized in a way I haven’t felt since the day I got my real estate license. The energy and excitement and ‘anything-is-possible’ mentality that I had on day one when I first got my real estate license is probably matched or exceeded only by the energy I have now,” Smith said, after the meeting concluded. “I enjoy being around high-caliber people and a diverse set of high-caliber people …  people who are thinking or breaking the box in a lot of different ways. That motivates me.”

Upon first hearing from Smith in 2021, Cohn said he did something considered unconventional by many and invited him to come to one of kwELITE’S monthly team meetings at the market center in Omaha. Soon, the two and Richardson went to lunch.

“We saw Dakotah as super talented and someone who had a lot to offer – we could sense that,” Cohn said.  “Any time you see quality people – people who can grow with the company – you’re going to want to invite them into your world.”

It wasn’t quite that simple, though. Smith underwent kw’s standard 10-step  “career-visioning”  process used for all potential hires. 

“Six hours of vigorous background checks, one-on-one meetings, talking to him about his life story, talking to him about his economic thermostat,” Richardson said. “Literally digging deep and figuring out what makes him tick – he went through the ringer.”

Smith brings with him a wealth of knowledge and experience in the real estate, business and tech worlds. Prior to kw, he served as a business and sales strategy leader at Redfin. At his HQ role of program manager for Redfin’s national seller’s brokerage operations, he managed the Direct Access program and a strategic partnership with ADT to deliver security and smart home capability to Redfin listings. 

As designated broker and regional market manager, he led Redfin’s sales operations in Nebraska, Iowa and Memphis, Tennessee. He served as field leader for Redfin’s CRM strategy team and was a 2021 Market Manager Envoy winner.

Before his career in real estate, Dakotah worked in Washington D.C. on both federal and state legislative advocacy and political campaigns. Previous roles have included manager of government affairs in Bayer Corporation’s D.C. Legislative Office as well as a public relations consultant with Consort Partners PR helping Silicon Valley-based tech startups achieve their press coverage and exposure goals. 

Smith, who taught as a university adjunct professor (Real Estate Law and Real Estate Brokerage courses) at the University of Nebraska Omaha, is a Douglas County planning commissioner. He continues to serve on the Board of Directors for both the Omaha Area Board of Realtors and the regional MLS. Additionally, he holds the designation of Graduate, Realtor Institute (GRI). 

“So he was the No. 1 fit for the role because he understands what’s going on industry-wide and he’s been in the trenches,” Richardson said. “He understands how to get our points across as to what it is we’re trying to accomplish.”

Mueller, who is also a broker based out of Columbus, said Smith has a unique sense of business savvy and believes he can help kw advance its mission to help real estate brokerages all across the country thrive.

“Dakotah brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in many aspects related to the real estate industry,” Mueller said. “We need individuals who think bigger and understand the economic impact we have on the industry as a whole. Dakotah has not only practiced this, but teaches it to others and will be a great partner and asset to our company and its trajectory moving forward.”

Smith went to lunch Tuesday with the dozens of kw team members who came to Omaha for his introduction, making a point to go around and visit with everyone on a personal level for a few moments. He stressed during his introduction that he welcomes direct feedback of any kind. He isn’t shy about hearing different opinions – it’s just about finding solutions and growing kw.

Smith, who is married and has two young daughters, said he was comfortable with what he was doing before. But, he noted, kwELITE has given him the opportunity to connect with people on a completely different level. He’s excited.

“I wanted to do a lot with my real estate license, I wanted to do a lot with the impact real estate can have on the community …” Smith said, after being introduced. “At kw, I feel like the higher you get in leadership, the more responsible and accountable you are to the community. It’s like a totally different ball game. That’s ultimately what attracted me to kwELITE …”

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