Thoughts on Leadership: Lessons from Shark Tank’s Daymond John

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me starting the work week early, with a flight to Naples, Florida on Sunday. On Monday, I participated in my typical WIG calls and then joined the start of the T3 Leadership Summit where I spoke onstage the following day. On Wednesday, I returned home to work out of my Northern California office and tomorrow, I’ll fly to Omaha for the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting.

During the T3 Leadership Summit, I had the honor of hearing Daymond John speak about disruption and entrepreneurship. John is the founder of global lifestyle brand FUBU and a regular on ABC’s “Shark Tank.” He’s also been on LinkedIn’s list of Top 20 Voices and received Ernst & Young’s New York Entrepreneur of the Year award.

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Thoughts on Leadership: Lessons from Amadeo Pietro Giannini

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me starting Monday at home with an early morning Berkshire Hathaway Energy call followed by my typical WIG calls. On Tuesday, I hosted the monthly HomeServices of America leadership meeting and yesterday, virtually joined the team members at Long Realty to celebrate their 2022 accomplishments and talk about finding opportunities amid chaos. Today, I drove with HomeServices of America’s SVP of Research and Development Allan Dalton to visit Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Drysdale Properties, where we celebrated 2022 award winners from the brokerage.

The big news story this week was the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank, which happened after the bank’s announcement it would have to sell part of its bond holdings at a major loss, subsequently causing a run on the bank. The tech-focused lender was taken over by federal regulators, and we’ve been following the fallout ever since.

Read more: Thoughts on Leadership: Lessons from Amadeo Pietro Giannini

The story reminds me of another Northern California banking narrative that began in the small Italian town of Acereto …

Amadeo Pietro (“A.P.”) Giannini was born in San Jose, California, the child of Maria Virginia De Martini and Luigi Giovanni, who left Acereto just a few months before Amadeo’s birth on May 6, 1870. When Giannini’s father died, his mother remarried the owner of a produce business and moved the family to San Francisco. As the A.P. Foundation describes, Giannini left school at the age of 13 to work full-time for his stepfather. Just six years later, Giannini was a partner in the successful produce enterprise, servicing farms throughout the Santa Clara Valley.

In 1892, Giannini married Florinda Agnes Cuneo, the daughter of wealthy Italian immigrants who owned a substantial share in Columbus Savings & Loan, a small bank located in San Francisco’s “Little Italy,” located in a neighborhood known as North Beach. At age 31, Giannini decided to retire, selling his interest in the produce business. The Wall Street Journal estimates that at his retirement, he was worth about $300,000 or the equivalent $9 million today. But Giannini’s business career was far from over.

Not even a year after Giannini’s “retirement,” Giannini’s father-in-law died, leaving Giannini to take over his position on the Columbus Savings & Loan board. For Giannini, this new role was a chance to help the city’s growing immigrant population, who had trouble securing loans. The directors disagreed. Frustrated, yet far from defeated, Giannini left the board and on October 17, 1904, founded the Bank of Italy with $150,000 raised from family and friends. Coincidentally, he headquartered the bank in a converted saloon that was directly across the street from the Columbus Savings & Loan. Giannini said this new bank was for the “little fellow” and was determined to service the hardworking, predominantly Italian immigrants from San Francisco’s Little Italy.

During the early 1900s, banks only worked with the wealthy. If you were poor, things like savings accounts, checking accounts, even home mortgages or auto loans simply didn’t exist – at least not for you. Those who were poor had to hide their money under mattresses and borrow funds from loan sharks at outrageously high rates. Giannini’s Bank of Italy gave these people hope. He focused on lending to merchants, farmers, and laborers, encouraging immigrants to transfer their money from beneath their mattresses to the safety of his newfound bank. It wasn’t just a whole new way of banking; it was the democratization of the entire banking system, and from an old saloon-turned-bank in San Francisco, Giannini led the charge.

Then, as most stories do, this one took an unexpected turn. On April 18, 1906, a massive earthquake shook San Francisco. Lasting less than a minute, the earthquake sent the city into shambles. More than 3,000 people died from the destruction and the subsequent fires it caused. Giannini was somehow able to get to the Bank of Italy building and salvage about $80,000 in gold and cash, loading everything into two horse-drawn produce wagons, which he discretely covered with crates of oranges then wheeled to his home in San Mateo, about 18 miles from the bank. (The Wall Street Journal reported Giannini said the money smelled like oranges for weeks.)

His careful retrieval of the bank’s funds paid off. While other city banks struggled to recover, Giannini set up a makeshift bank on the docks near North Beach. He leaned a wooden plank on top of two barrels and used that as his “desk.” On a cardboard sign nearby, he wrote: BANK OF ITALY: OPEN FOR BUSINESS.

From his new Bank of Italy “headquarters,” Giannini met with customers who were able to secure loans with a simple handshake, allowing them to get the money they needed to survive and rebuild. His efforts are widely regarded as pivotal in the redevelopment of the city. The Wall Street Journal, citing a 1921 interview, published Giannini’s remarks about his work: “The ‘glad hand’ is all right in sunshine,” he said. “But it’s the helping hand in a dark day that folks remember to the end of time.”

After the 1906 earthquake, Giannini wanted to do more to help. He decided that instead of one central banking location, he’d open “branches” of his bank to service additional customers. In 1909, the first Bank of Italy branch opened in San Jose, and in 1913, branches opened throughout Southern California. On November 1, 1930, Bank of Italy merged with another bank, and Giannini’s new bank was called Bank of America, which in time became the largest banking institution in North America.

Customers weren’t the only beneficiaries of Giannini’s vision. In 1923, when Giannini set up a motion-picture loan division at the bank, hundreds of films were financed, including “West Side Story,” and “It’s a Wonderful Life.” When a filmmaker named Walt Disney couldn’t secure the loan for his first feature-length film, Giannini’s bank loaned him the $1.7 million and Disney finished “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” Giannini’s bank also helped finance “Pinocchio,” “Peter Pan,” “Cinderella” and later, Disneyland. And when an innovative engineer named Joseph Strauss came to Giannini with the idea to build a bridge spanning the Golden Gate Strait, Giannini famously asked Strauss how long the bridge would last. “Forever,” the engineer told him, to which Giannini replied, “California needs that bridge.” In 1933, with Giannini as a financial guarantor, construction of the Golden Gate Bridge began.

So, what’s the message? Before Giannini retired (again) in 1945, he worked almost every day on the main floor of Bank of America’s headquarters, interacting with customers well into his 70s. After his passing in 1949, Giannini left behind just $500,000. Famously, he believed in only keeping as much money as he absolutely needed. When Transamerica Corporation gave him a $1.5 million bonus, he donated it to the University of California to develop a school for agriculture economics. Beyond his inspiring selflessness, Giannini’s tale reminds us that when a crisis occurs, we must be nimble – rolling that vegetable wagon down the road, nailing the wooden plank to the barrels on the wharf, and serving everyone. It’s not when things are simple and quiet that legends like Giannini are made. It’s during times of upheaval when the real heroes of our story emerge.

Thoughts on Leadership: Success and Your Personal Philosophy

By: Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me at home, starting the year off with my typical Monday WIG calls. On Tuesday, I had a Berkshire Hathaway Energy weekly executive team meeting and on Wednesday, I attended the Berkshire Hathaway Energy 2021 Executive Leadership Conference, “Transforming Our Business,” a four-and-a-half-hour virtual session about leadership in 2021 and beyond. The rest of the week was spent planning for the virtual, two-day HomeServices of America Leadership Conference, which will take place January 20-21.

The Executive Leadership Conference was a great lead-in to this blog because Bill Fehrman, Berkshire Hathaway Energy president and CEO, and Greg Abel, Berkshire Hathaway Inc., vice chairman of non-insurance operations and chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Energy, talked about the culture of Berkshire Hathaway as one marked by continuous improvement.

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THOUGHTS ON LEADERSHIP: HAPPY NEW YEAR

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me at home, just as they did since March 11. Throughout the week, I completed seven CEO reviews and as I write this, there are mere days left in 2020, a year that challenged us as much as it strengthened us while we led our teams through the unknown, into an entirely new world.

To inspire your ensuing fresh start, here are some of my favorite New Year’s quotes from some of my favorite people. Because for this post, I thought it was only right to pass the mic to others and let their wisdom guide us as we contemplate all the good this new year will bring:

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THOUGHTS ON LEADERSHIP: HAPPY HOLIDAYS

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me at home, starting Monday with my typical WIG calls. On Tuesday, I had my weekly Berkshire Hathaway Energy Presidents Meeting and five CEO reviews, followed by two CEO reviews the next day. It’s been a busy week of conference calls and Microsoft Teams meetings as we tie a bow on this challenging year while looking forward to the next. The holidays are such a special time, even though this is the year many of us can’t be with our family and loved ones or hold the traditional holiday parties, but the spirit of the season remains. Surprisingly, the holidays are also filled with leadership lessons and they come from the boss of yuletide cheer, St. Nick. Here are twelve tips he can teach us:

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THOUGHTS ON LEADERSHIP: SUCCESS LEAVES CLUES

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me at home, starting off with my typical Monday WIG calls. On Tuesday, I had the Berkshire Hathaway Energy President’s Meeting and the end of year HomeServices of America CEO leadership virtual meeting and on Wednesday I presented 4DX to the team at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties then filmed a few videos for the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Sales Convention 2021 and presented Mindset Leadership Amid COVID-19 to the team at Intero South County. Today, I had the HomeServices of America corporate team virtual holiday gathering and Iowa Realty’s employee service recognition virtual event. In between, I hosted six CEO reviews.

It was a long and busy week, filled with interactions among leaders I admire and respect. Famed self-help and business author Napoleon Hill once said: “It is literally true that you can succeed best and quickest by helping others succeed.”

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THOUGHTS ON LEADERSHIP: LET’S TALK TEAM CHEMISTRY

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me at home, beginning the week with my typical Monday WIG calls. On Tuesday, I had the Berkshire Hathaway Energy Presidents Meeting and presented 4DX Tune-up to the leadership team at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach, REALTORS®. I also presented on time management to the Intero Academy and celebrated by beloved dog Kona’s 12th birthday. On Wednesday morning, I presented “Mindset Leadership Amid COVID-19” to the teams at Huff Realty, Rector Hayden REALTORS®, Semonin REALTORS®, and WR REALTORS®. On Wednesday afternoon I gave the presentation to the team at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Premier Properties. Today, I kick off the day with a HomeServices of America corporate team gathering and I’m hosting four CEO reviews. 

For our Thoughts on Leadership post this week, I want to talk about team chemistry. In sports, chemistry is everything. You win or lose based on the chemistry of your team. The same concept applies to business. A good leader not only understands their team’s chemistry but also can utilize it to effectively accomplish ‘Wildly Important Goals’. A leader knows who works best together and who doesn’t. A leader knows how to bring out the chemistry between a team and strengthen it every day.

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THOUGHTS ON LEADERSHIP: FOSTERING FUTURE LEADERS

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me at home, starting Monday off with my typical WIG calls. On Tuesday, I attended the Weekly Berkshire Hathaway Energy President’s Meeting followed by a Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices global alignment session. Next, I presented Mindset Leadership Amid COVID-19 to Intero Real Estate Services’ Peninsula offices and to the team at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties. I also had two succession calls this week.

I’ve been including these succession calls in my weekly recap now for a while, but we haven’t really gone into detail on what they mean. Let’s explore together: a succession call is exactly as it sounds, an opportunity for a CEO to create a plan for their succession in the event they leave the company or something unfortunate causes them to step down from their leadership position. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”

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THOUGHTS ON LEADERSHIP: HAPPY THANKSGIVING

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me at home, starting off with my typical Monday WIG calls. After the calls, I met virtually with two groups of students at the San Jose State University School of Business Entrepreneurial Venture Lab class. Listening to their pitches and delivering critiques was the closest I’ve gotten to becoming a Shark Tank judge. On Tuesday, I participated in the weekly Berkshire Hathaway Energy Presidents Meeting and today I was invited by Ken Baris (CEO of Jordan Baris Inc., REALTORS® Real Living) to give a 30-minute presentation about gratitude during the West Orange New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Thanksgiving luncheon, held via Zoom.

And gratitude really is the name of the game this week. I feel so grateful to pursue my calling with leaders who have become more like family. From the staff members to our CEOs to our network brokers and owners to our agents — everyone deserves my ultimate gratitude today and always.

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THOUGHTS ON LEADERSHIP: FINISH THE YEAR STRONG

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me at home, beginning Monday with my typical WIG calls. On Tuesday, I attended the Weekly Berkshire Hathaway Energy President’s Meeting and hosted our HomeServices of America monthly CEO Leadership Meeting. On Wednesday, I presented Mindset Leadership Amid COVID-19 to the entire team at ReeceNichols followed by a presentation of 4DX Tune-Up to the HomeServices of America Marketing/IT Conference attendees. This afternoon I presented Mindset Leadership Amid COVID-19 to more than 10 incredible Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices brokerages from Anchorage, Alaska to the Big Apple. 

As many teams dart, charge and race toward the finish line of 2020, they may find difficulty staying focused. Thanksgiving arrives next week in all its turkey and sweet-potato glory. Then, the heart of the holiday season follows soon after. In all the festive chaos, the typical whirlwind that throws off your daily plans turns into a veritable storm of tasks to get done. To stay focused and goal-oriented, here are a few ideas to help you out:

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