CHARLOTTE –Derrick Kiker has made a career – actually, three or four careers – of not being pinned down.
But Kiker, one of the latest additions to the SouthPark offices of Keller Williams Real Estate, has been pinned a few times, winning awards and seats on boards right and left, most notably the Charlotte Regional Realtor Association’s Vane Mingle Rookie of the Year prize, in 2009.
Kiker, born in Charlotte and raised in Stanly and Cabarrus counties, struck us as a bit of a dandy when he walked into the Keller offices, wearing spiky hair, a slick blazer, a lavender-checked shirt open a couple of buttons at the collar, and a smaller-than-is-stylish Baume & Mercier tank watch.
But Kiker, 44 last Friday, came across in the interview as a fairly down-to-earth and thoughtful guy, taking his time to choose his words carefully and occasionally going back to reword himself.
We don’t have to add much to what he has to say. He pretty much took control of the interview and ran with it.
Buckle up, and get ready to roll with him.
What’s the Vane Mingle Rookie of the Year award and what’s it based on? It’s given by the CRRA, not the CRRA’s Mingle School of Real Estate, though that’s where I went to real estate school, and it’s a combination of your sales record and your community involvement and with the association of realtors.
What community involvement? At that time, I was doing some things with the contemporary service at Hickory Grove Baptist Church, doing the lights.
Designing the lights or running the lights. Yes.
Ha. The church had a concert-style vibe, and they do some other events, like a Halloween thing, conferences.
So you had some show business background or training? Let’s start from the beginning.
You go, boyo. In college in the Triangle – I went three years to N.C. State and three years at Carolina and lived in all three cities – I was recruited by a nightclub in Miami to do their marketing. I had some DJ work in Raleigh. At the club in Miami – I was there for two years and three (winter) seasons, but it felt like 22 – I did things like looking at talent and getting things ready for shows, doing decorations – generally organizing everything. I did a couple of one-off events here and there in D.C. and Philly. I left, finally, in 1998 and I came back to Charlotte and did some commercials for Pizza Hut, an auto parts store and a spec ad for the Charlotte Hornets.
On-screen work? Yes, actually. I was the Papa John’s Pizza maker making inferior pizza – maybe I shouldn’t use the name.
Oh, go ahead, it’s just between you, me and the readers of The Meck Times. Ha. And I was a mechanic in the auto parts ad.
I’m not seeing that, but OK. Cast against type. Actually, the first thing I did was being an Elvis impersonator in a Hornets ad. They had a team of Elvises playing basketball. And I worked as a PA (production assistant) with a bunch of different commercials. And I was doing a lot of stuff in Wilmington.
Which has a major studio, Screen Gems. Right, so I went to Wilmington there. Let’s just say I was less than successful.
Ha. Maybe you shouldn’t say that. I meant it to be humorous.
I’ll put in a “Ha” because you did make me laugh. People will get it. So long as you don’t say I’m a failure.
Ha. I’ll put in two “Ha’s” for emphasis. I did some work on “Muppets From Space” and several “Dawson’s Creek” episodes – extra work, which is not what I wanted to be doing. And I was doing some management stuff for a nightclub in Wilmington. So in 1999-2000, just as the market was booming, I got my real estate license. I had already established myself as a nomad. . .
Ha. . . .so I moved to Atlanta. My father owned his own real estate company in Stanly County, so that’s what I decided to do. The only reason I didn’t decide to do it before then is because that’s what he wanted me to do.
Ha. I know how that works. But I decided to move to Atlanta to make my own way of it.
I know how that works, too. I moved down there with no plan; just got in my car and drove down there. When I got there, I was looking for a cell phone; I thought, well, the first thing I’ll need is a (local) phone number. I pulled into a Coldwell Banker and asked them if they knew where I could get a cell phone around there. They told me. But they also said they had a marketing position open.
Bingo. It was great. I would have a regular salary as I transitioned into sales.
When you’d be on straight commission. Nice. But before I could really get started, I was hired by a Chicago firm to market tobacco products.
Tobacco products? Yeah. Cigarettes. They wanted to pay me what tobacco companies paid, so I said forget real estate.
Ha. Maybe shouldn’t put that in there.
Don’t worry about it; people are going to get that you’re being colorful. I’m going to “Ha” all over the place. Ha.
So what did this job entail? Standing outside elementary schools in a Joe Camel mascot suit handing out free carcinogens to the kiddies? Ha. No, I came up with ways to get bars to use tobacco products to promote nightclub acts. Most of my time was spent meeting with people, talking to them about allowing us to do stuff in their nightclubs. At the same time I was DJ’ing at a regular backyard party. One time a club owner came up to me and said, “I want you to come work for me.”
Man, you are right. You are a regular peripatetic. Ha. Yeah. I did that for a while and became very, very successful, and started traveling around the country doing that. Around 2005, I started figuring out that’s not what I wanted to do. . .
I think that’s about the 40th time you’ve said that so far about a job. Ha. It was: Take a plane to a city, set up, do the work, go to the hotel, sleep for two hours and then get on a plane again. And records are heavy! We were still using records then, not a memory stick. We were just transitioning into CDs.
Get enough CDs, they’re pretty heavy, too. Right. So I decided to get back into real estate – or, actually, finally get into real estate. I had my license already. I spent six months to a year researching where I wanted to be. I’m really very analytical, so I figured out everything that was really important to me. All my research pointed me to Charlotte – exactly where I didn’t want to be. I grew up here. So I didn’t agree with my results, but I followed them. I started out with Allen Tate for just a little while. And then I moved over to Keller Williams, where I was named a “rising star” by the North Carolina Association of Realtors and got the rookie thing. Now I’m on the board of NCAR and chair the Leadership Academy Selection Committee.
Well aren’t you just the darling of the real estate world. You must be pretty successful. Well, I’m still working on that, actually. I’m not as successful as I would like to be, as I could be. When I started, things were starting to fall apart (in real estate), and I did half what I wanted to do, but apparently that was better than most; veterans at this were coming up to me and asking me how I did it. And I just said I was doing what they taught me in class: putting business cards in the door of FSBOs – just doing what they told me.
So you’re 44, and finally settled into real estate. Well, as far as the talent agency goes, I’m 32. Or 28.
Ha. So you mean you’re still dabbling in show business? I get opportunities, but I don’t always take them. They called me to be the stand-in for Nick Jonas in that movie set in Charlotte, what is it, “Careful What You Wish For”? They called me for that, but I couldn’t do it; my schedule wouldn’t allow it. Not just work, but I live next door to my grandmother, and I have to be available to her, which is another reason I’m not as successful as I could be. I don’t take care of her – I want to make that clear – but I do things for her, and I do it because I want to do it, because now I understand what’s important to me. I’ve done enough stuff in my life for me. Instead of managing a team, I choose to keep my business small and deliver a one-on-one personal experience to my clients. That way I still have time left for family and other commitments. I’m not driven by money and I’m fortunate to have reached this level of success in such a short time. I do what I do because I enjoy being there for people in some of the most important decisions of their lives, but there’s just not enough of me to help everyone. Thankfully, I work with many talented people and can always find the perfect agent to refer people to, when I’m not able to help them myself.
I don’t see a wedding ring. Is there someone significant in your life? A 13-year-old golden retriever, who needs me. He was sick for a few months a year or so ago, and is old.
Aww. What’s the dog’s name? Zack. But that’s not his real name. His real name is Zachary Clawberry Kiker. But you don’t have to put that in there.
Are you kidding me? Of course it’s going in. Clawberry? Dogs with cute names are great for readership. Ha.That’s the name he had when he was in the shelter. Anyway, between my dog and my grandmother, they take up most of my time. I DJ’d my 25th anniversary high school reunion at Central Cabarrus High, and I became reacquainted with a few old friends, so I’ve been out to dinner a few times recently. That and Netflix – that’s my social life. I don’t even participate in social media as I should for business. I go on like every two weeks. I need a secretary to tweet for me. I mean, I still have a dumb phone. I can call and get called and send text messages – that’s all I need. If I want to know the weather in London or order a pizza, I can turn to the person next to me and ask, and they’re so happy to pull out their smart phones.
Anything else you want to say? You’ve said quite a bit in a short time. I guess. . .I’m fairly complex, and it takes a while to get to like me, to know me. So if you ever want to talk more. . .