FORT COLLINS — Larry Kendall has blended people-power with his own compassion to carve out a career worthy of BizWest’s 2020 Bravo! Entrepreneur Regional Spirit award.
During a career that spans five decades, Kendall has helped thousands of people find the home of their dreams, and he has helped thousands of agents hone their skills to aid in those transactions. Along the way, he has volunteered time and effort to help the Northern Colorado community.
Kendall fell in love with Fort Collins when on a road trip in the 1970s, and he decided to put down roots. Finding himself without a job, he turned to selling real estate, but he was turned off by the hard-sell approach driven by quotas that was taught at real estate seminars of the day. He thought there had to be a better approach and decided to create one that suited his people-oriented personality.
Kendall helped co-found The Group Inc. in 1976 with 11 other Realtors.
The employee-owned real estate sales group was formed long before employee-owned businesses were fashionable. It quickly became a laboratory for experimenting with group dynamics, teams, self-directed work groups, employee empowerment and leadership — all the while working to find the best way to buy-and-sell real estate.
Susie Ewing, one of those first partners, recalls that it was Kendall’s idea to open a real estate company that was employee-owned.
“All partners bought stock in the company and benefited from the profits,” Ewing said. “In 1976, that was unheard of, and 44 years later the company that started with 12 partners now has 212 partners and six offices in Northern Colorado. He was then and still is a visionary.”
Ewing said that Kendall is driven by bringing out the best in people.
“From the beginning, he was always a good leader, mentor, motivator and friend. He has a very unique way of recognizing the talents that people have long before they do and then helping them build on those talents. He is a true Go Giver — always willing to share what he has learned in order for people to be better.”
In 1994, Kendall was instrumental in co-creating the Ninja Selling system. The sales-training system is based on building relationships, listening to customers and helping get them to where they want to be. In addition to making a transaction smooth for buyer and seller, the goals of the system include increasing an agent’s income per hour, customer satisfaction and improving the quality of an agent’s life.
The system first was used by the members of The Group but has since been taught internationally. Propelled by Kendall’s book “Ninja Selling,” the system has been taught in the United States, Canada, New Zealand and Spain with approximately 100,000 graduates. The book offers insights and case studies of Kendall’s “soft” approach to sales and business development that he says never puts sellers in the position of being rejected or causes customers to feel pressure.
These “soft” skills such as empathy, communication and collaboration, generally are not taught in college, but frequently are sought by employers, Kendall said. The skills turn salespeople into “counselors.” A key ingredient to the Ninja Way is for agents to have up-to-date and detailed market research at their fingertips, enabling them to offer counseling backed by statistics.
Ajay Menon, president and chief executive of the Colorado State University Research Foundation, said Kendall is adept at building the human asset and human spirit.
“He is a visionary who can paint a picture for individuals who only see chaos and lack of a path,” Menon said.
Menon added that Kendall shared his knowledge and “secret sauce” (the Ninja Way) at no cost to the students at CSU during a 10-year period when he taught at the university’s Everitt Real Estate Center.
Kendall has offered his business skills to a number of community organizations. When he was chairman of the Fort Collins Chamber of Commerce, he helped double the organization’s membership, pay off debts and raise funds that saved the chamber from financial turmoil.
He also secured more than $2 million in donations, as well as in-kind donations, which enabled Respite Care, a nonprofit day-care center for special-needs children, to move to a larger building so it could serve more children from Fort Collins and Loveland.
“Larry and his wife, Pat, have always been huge supporters of Respite Care,” Ewing said. “Each year, Respite sells raffle tickets for people to win a car that has been donated. Larry and Pat have won that raffle twice and both times they gave the car back to Respite Care so it could benefit from the proceeds.”
In 2019, CSU’s Everitt Real Estate Center inducted Kendall into its Real Estate Hall of Fame.
Menon said that Kendall was inducted into the center’s hall of fame for several reasons, including his positive impact on the strength and richness of the real estate industry, nationally and locally.
“He had an innovative approach to bringing a new model for real estate sales practices,” Menon said. “He has high standards for integrity, ethics, professionalism, innovation and most inspiring is his story of reinventing himself through the Ninja sales workshops and as an author,” Menon said.
“One hundred years from now, people will remember Larry not for The Group, nor the Ninja Selling book and workshops. He will be remembered for the impact he had on individual lives, the community in which he has worked and giving hope to the less fortunate in our society.”
- Past-president of the Fort Collins Chamber of Commerce
- Past-president of the Fort Collins Area United Way
- Past-chairman of the Colorado State University Development Council
- Alumni fellow, Kansas State University
- Kansas State University College of Business Dean’s Advisory Board
- Director of First Bank Holding Co.
- Special Achievement award from the National Association of Realtors for teaching and impact on national real estate education
- Colorado Realtor of the Year
- Realtor of the Year from the Fort Collins Board of Realtors
- Business Person of the Year from Business World Magazine
- Entrepreneur of the Year from Fort Collins Inc.
- Collins Award for service to the Fort Collins community
- Charles A. Lory Public Service Award, from Colorado State University
- Bravo! Lifetime Achievement award from BizWest
- Best in the Business award from Fort Collins Coloradoan
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