Thoughts on Leadership: Dream a Little, Win Big

This week my travels found me in Park City, UT and Salt Lake City, UT, then in Southern California for team meetings at our HQ in Irvine. But instead of focusing on the business of the week, I want to instead detail my time spent in SLC, where I was honored to help present our “Love Your Home” Sweepstakes grand prize winner, Aaron Zimmerman, of Sandy, UT, with a $50,000 check. This was our third year running a “Love Your Home” Sweepstakes, (held in conjunction with HGTV), and we set a new Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices record with an astounding 5.7 million entrants, 77% above last year’s sweepstakes registration.

With such an incredible number of entries, you might think, “There’s no chance I’d ever win!” But someone must win, someone did win and for 2017 that person was Aaron Zimmerman. Beyond being a serendipitous moment for Zimmerman, his win marks a three-year-long turn of true serendipity for our Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices sweepstakes. Each year, our winner was someone who will use the money in an impactful, substantial way. Let me explain …

Our first sweepstakes, held in 2014, saw Barbara Wakefield win it all, a grandmother and devoted wife of 50+ years, who lives on a 120-acre farm in Lawrenceburg, KY. When I called Barbara back in 2014 to congratulate her on the win, I still remember what she told me she planned to use the winnings to renovate the kitchen in her 100-year-old home, and as I noted in 2014 when we spoke, Wakefield is not just a winner, she’s a winning person, too. Who could forget the plate of cookies and pitcher of lemonade she had waiting for our crew as they arrived at her house to photograph her with the $50,000 check?

The next year, our winner was Todd Villari, a father of four from Trussville, AL, whose name was drawn from more than 3.3 million entrants. (You can relive the happy moment when Todd won by watching this video.) Villari lives in a historic neighborhood in Trussville and planned to use his grand prize to finish renovation on his home—building a new garage, putting in a fireplace, upgrading the kitchen—so he can provide an even better life for his wife and four small children.

This year, Zimmerman won the prize, and called it “a life changer for me and my family.” He lives in the suburbs south of Salt Lake City with his wife Kathryn and their 4-year-old son. He says they’d like to use the winnings to purchase their first home, and he already pictures it featuring a large yard so his son, who has autism, has plenty of room to play.

During the presentation, our team, along with the leadership team at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Utah Properties and Utah Properties CEO/Owner Steve Roney, announced the two organizations—Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices and Utah Properties—both contributed in the Zimmerman’s name to the Utah Parent Center for its ongoing support of families impacted by autism.

The moment was touching, and especially poignant for me not only because of the good we were able to do for the Zimmermans but also because autism is a disorder close to my heart; my close friend Dave Smithson, who was in my wedding, has three children with autism.

So what’s the message? Wayne Gretzy once said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”  Yes, the odds of winning our sweepstakes are small but really, if you don’t play, you can’t win.  Still, the very best message for this week comes from the words of Kathryn Zimmerman, Aaron’s wife, as she described what it felt like when she first learned of the $50,000 grand prize: “I always believed the universe had something better for my family and this is a great start to our future,” she said. “It encourages us to move forward and dream a little.” There you have it. Dream a little, win big.

GINO BLEFARI is CEO of HSF Affiliates LLC. You can follow Gino on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

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