In BAM’s first-ever debate, Byron Lazine and Ricky Carruth faced off on a topic they’re both passionate about: paid vs. free coaching, with Byron an advocate for paid coaching and Ricky for free. 

Of the two, Ricky actually is a coach, who offers free coaching. Byron is not a coach, but has paid for coaching services from early on in his career. 

Hosted by Danny Deals Oneil and streamed live on YouTube, the discussion was lively and comments from viewers kept us all entertained.

So, who won the debate? Tune in to see for yourself:

Byron began by pointing out the need for a real definition of coaching that separates it from both training and content. He’s a big fan of Ricky’s content and his dissemination of info, which is training. He’s a huge fan of the messaging and believes in a lot of it himself. 

But coaching is a completely different thing. Coaching is one-on-one guidance with accountability. So, he asked Ricky how he’s doing just that with free coaching. 

“A coach is in it with you. They’re in the trenches. They’re someone who has a little skin in the game on your results… We value what we pay for.”

Byron Lazine

Define “coaching”

Byron referenced a podcast he and Ricky did on April 24, 2020. At the 7:54 mark, Ricky said 30,000 people signed up for his coaching program, but fewer than 80 people completed it to get that one-on-one call with Ricky. That would be a .0026 success rate.

At that point, he asked Ricky the question, “How do you define coaching? What does it mean to you when you say free coaching?” 

Ricky pointed out that plenty can happen in the two years since that podcast. Right now, he has one-on-one coaching calls all day every day. He now has 20 certified ZeroToDiamond (ZTD) coaches who also coach one-on-one at no cost. 

ZTD ran a survey, which gathered responses from about 500 agents. Seven out of ten of those got more listings and closed more deals. 87% had better time management. 75% read more. A full 98.8% said they enjoy being a real estate agent more than before the ZTD program. 

The number one goal for Ricky’s free coaching program is to reduce the failure rate in the real estate industry, one agent at a time, through free coaching. 

Ricky talked about his own experience with paid coaching. Four months in, he told himself, “This is a rip-off.” Many agents coming to his program came from the paid coaching world, and he’s heard all kinds of horror stories. 

Ricky’s biggest issue with paid coaching

Dan asked Ricky, “Would you say your biggest issue with paid coaching is the lack of quality from these coaches that are putting themselves out there and are charging money?”

Ricky pointed out how many coaches out there have never even sold real estate. He referred to Byron’s earlier comment about coaches being “in the trenches,” and to him, that means those coaches know – from both knowledge and experience – what it’s like to be a real estate agent. Speaking for himself, he said, “I really want to have a mentor in place who has accomplished what I’ve accomplished, has been through what I’ve been through or what I’m going to go through.” 

Up-front cost vs fraud potential

Byron responded by pointing out, “Offering to work for free over and over again can inevitably turn into fraud. At least with a paid coach – you talk about ripping people off and hammering to get a credit card – at least there’s an upfront understanding that you’re going to pay and there’s going to be a value exchange.” 

Byron asked Ricky, “Is it a profession? And what’s the definition of it?”

Ricky defined a coach as “someone who can take an agent, help them increase whatever capacity of their business they want to increase, help them identify how to be more efficient… A true coach is gonna sit down and dissect your entire situation. That’s what I do for every single agent…look at your one- and five-year goals, and help you put together a new plan hour by hour per week based on [those goals]. And then, like you say, hold them accountable to that.” 

Starting out as a paid coach

Years ago, when Ricky started coaching, he was charging. Six months into it, he realized his paid coaching wasn’t helping the industry. He’d have 300 people sign up for a webinar, a hundred would show up, and one or two would actually move forward. 

Ricky saw that and thought, “Three hundred people needed help, a hundred really needed help, and here I am trying to have this…paywall to get to the information I so badly want to tell everybody.” 

So, he decided to prioritize getting that information to the masses – and that charging for coaching was not going to be his path.  

Why not teach agents to list homes for free?

Byron appreciated Ricky’s messaging but asked why not teach his agents to go out there and list homes for free? If free coaching was so beneficial to the masses, how about free real estate agent services to increase homeownership rates? He asked if Ricky would work for free as an agent to create more homeowners. 

Ricky replied that he does. “That’s one of my strategies — to list properties for free. That’s in the coaching program. If you go there and kinda dig into the content and figure out what we’re talking about here, that is part of the strategy.” 

He then brought up a message he received from Byron’s coach, saying, “Please stop coaching for free. What if I came into your market and started listing properties for free?”


Byron gave a name to the coach Ricky mentioned: Tom Ferry, whom he admires greatly. He likes the proximity to power because Tom Ferry has impacted way more people in the industry than anyone. “And the transparency around how he got that following is out there for everybody to see.”

The best in the industry pay for coaching

Byron then brought up the fact that many of the most successful coaches trained by Ricky have paid coaches themselves because they see the value in that. 

He referenced the teams that rank above Ricky at eXP – the vast majority of which pay for coaching – and asked why they don’t just coach with him?

Ricky responded to that question by saying he was forced to be a single agent for 20 years because, where he was, people would join a team, they’d learn everything, and then they’d leave. He added that his coaching is based 100% on communication – and that thousands have taken this mindset and turned their whole business around. 

Does everyone need coaching?

One thing Byron and Ricky agree on is whether or not coaching is beneficial for all. 

Byron stated that, for agents who are content with where they are and who don’t see a need to grow their business, coaching doesn’t make sense for them. 

“But if you want to grow and get better each and every single year, if you want to be around the power players in this industry… and you want a coach holding you accountable for your proven results… there are thousands and thousands of people who are benefiting from some of these paid coaches in our industry and have built real 8-, 9-figure businesses off of continuing coaching.” 

Ricky agreed with a simple, “Ditto.” 

The future of coaching

Dan’s last question, before addressing the comments, was “Where do you see the coaching industry evolving to in the future?”

Ricky believes it will remain much as it is now. Byron doesn’t believe we’ll see anyone coaching for free because he doesn’t see any agents in the comment section who would go out there and do their profession for free. And neither would he. The free coaching model isn’t the norm for a reason. 

People are more likely to trust and value services they’ve paid for. 

Ricky responded to this by arguing, “You’ve got the educational side of learning, and then you have the experience side of learning. So, you can go out and learn all this stuff, but it’s tough for me to put my trust in someone who’s never actually been on the experience side… That experience is something you can’t replace.” 

Byron replied with his belief that everyone in the comment section wants to do good by the people they’re working with. “Yet we’re all gonna charge them a commission. I believe you can have it both ways. You can care about people, you can really want to do good for them… and still charge them for the service you’re providing.” 

Closing Statements

“Whether you can pay for it or not, you need mentors. You need information. The dissemination of information is out there. Go on Eric is writing some real tactical pieces that will help your marketing today… I’m still unclear on how the [free] coaching works. And I get it, thousands of people out there are saying it works, so it must… But at the end of the day, I so much appreciate you, Ricky, being willing to do this. I, too, care deeply about this industry. I really believe that you do… You don’t see brokers doing what Ricky and I just did here today… and I really appreciate that you made it happen… You and I just coming on here and doing this, I’m hoping, opened up some clarity for some of those thoughts and certainly opened up the conversation that this industry deserves.”

Byron Lazine

“At the end of the day, free coaching gives people another option. We’ll see. Let’s do this again in five years. The vision’s there, we’re gonna make a huge impact. That’s all we’re really after. The coaches don’t get paid anything. It’s the Ricky model… At the end of the day, you guys have to go with your gut on what you feel like is the best for you. I’m totally for people trying things out, seeing if it’s gonna work for them… I think everybody’s different. I never had a coach, so that might be part of my stigma [and] part of my persona. But I appreciate you guys.”

Ricky Carruth

Some in the comments were discussing who “won” the debate, but everyone, for the most part, agreed the industry won because of how informational and beneficial this discussion has been.