Thoughts on Leadership: Celebrating Black History Month

By Gino Bleafri:

This week my travels find me starting Monday at home, conducting my typical WIG calls. On Tuesday, I had an early morning Berkshire Hathaway Energy call, and in total this week, I had 20 appointments with the mission to help team members achieve their goals faster than they would in my absence. Today, I attended Iowa Realty’s 70th Anniversary and Agent Award Ceremony.

One of my Wildly Important Goals this week was to attend and participate in our “Diversity Meets” monthly meeting, which just so happens to coincide with the start of Black History Month this February.

All month long (but really, all year long) we celebrate the leadership of incredible Black leaders whose wisdom and insights challenged and changed our world in extraordinary ways. For this post, I’d like to focus on my pal Johnnie Johnson.

A fearless leader, advocate, good friend, and former All-Pro defensive back for the Los Angeles Rams, today Johnnie is president and CEO of World Class Coaches. He’s also the author of a must-read book, From Athletics to Engineering: 8 Ways to Support Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

In the book, Johnnie outlines 8 tactics for creating a more diverse and inclusive environment at work, at home and in every facet of your life. Here are his 8 ways:

  1. It starts with each of us. Johnnie says the first step to supporting diversity, equity and inclusion is deciding that you will. If you wait around for someone else to do it, it’ll never happen in the way it should. A more inclusive approach must always start with you.
  2. Love your neighbor. But don’t just love them, says Johnnie, take the time to really get to know and appreciate who they are as human beings. This removes barriers that inhibit the flow of a diverse, inclusive society.
  3. Talk about it. Engage in constructive conversations, Johnnie writes. Be sure to create a safe environment where tough questions can be asked without fear of recrimination. There is always more knowledge to gain.
  4. Check your biases and blind spots. Identifying the places where you have bias allows you to correct and eliminate them.
  5. Expand your comfort zone. Johnnie defines a comfort zone as the place where we can be productive and operate with confidence. When we operate outside of it, our performance suffers. Therefore, it’s critical to expand our comfort zone, so we can perform comfortably at a high level in a variety of circumstances.
  6. Build diverse teams. Diversity inherently brings varying perspectives to a company, which helps teams perform better. A McKinsey & Company study cited in the book found that “the most diverse companies outperform less diverse companies on key indicators, such as profitability.”
  7. Collaborate. Creating a team with diverse backgrounds is what Johnnie calls “a good start.” Next comes the actual collaboration to ensure the team performs. When you collaborate, you must not only acknowledge the differences among the team but also celebrate them.
  8. Align actions with goals and values. Johnnie says goals must be in alignment with personal values, and we should take time to define and articulate our core values. Then, we must ensure that we’re following them with everything we say and do.

So, what’s the message? At HomeServices of America, diversity is who we are and who we’ll forever strive to be. It’s a perpetual journey, adding new perspectives and fresh ideas as we travel this diverse, inclusive, and equitable road together. Johnnie Johnson is an example of a leader who does just that … and in sharing his strategies this Black History Month, we find inspiration to create a better world for all.

Thoughts on Leadership: Tough Love and Butterflies

By Gino Blefari:

This week my travels find me starting Monday at home, conducting my typical WIG calls. On Tuesday, I had my early morning Berkshire Hathaway Energy call and then prepped for several meetings with the team. Today, I had the opportunity to support newly inducted Santa Clara County Association of REALTORSⓇ (SCCAOR) president Will Chea of Intero Real Estate at the 2023 Installation of SCCAOR Officers and Directors. Now, I sit down to write this post to you.

Read more: Thoughts on Leadership: Tough Love and Butterflies

Even though we’re about midway through the academic year, I happened to see Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford commencement speech online, and it inspired me to think about what an ideal talk to a graduating class should be. “The only way to do great work is to love what you do,” Jobs famously told the new grads. “If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”

His speech was moving, but it was also direct. As a leader, it’s about imparting tough love, the kind of love that’s no-nonsense, gritty, and real.

Many times people who love you don’t have those difficult, tough-love conversations because their instinct is to protect, comfort and shield you from all the bad things about the world; they only want you to see what’s shiny and good.

Tough love will help you recognize that life isn’t easy, and tough love implores you to learn those difficult lessons all on your own.

Here’s a scenario: You’re sitting in your backyard one afternoon. Suddenly, you spot a butterfly attempting to break free from its chrysalis – that hard shell formed during its metamorphosis. The struggle is difficult for you to watch, and your instinct is to help the creature out. So, you get some scissors from the kitchen and cut the chrysalis, allowing the butterfly to emerge into the world.

Success, right?

Wrong.

You wait for the butterfly, still shriveled up and weak, to flap its wings and fly away. But it never does. Instead, it just walks on the ground, and that’s where it will remain, if it even survives as all.

What the metamorphosis of a butterfly teaches us is that struggle is necessary for survival. As the butterfly pushes through a small opening at the bottom of the chrysalis, the fluid from its body is sent to the wings, making the butterfly’s wings strong enough to support its eventual flight.

This is the tough-love lesson those students – and all of us – need to hear when times get challenging. It’s the hard that makes us great. Just like the butterfly must fight against its cocoon to develop wings solid enough to fly, so too do people need to experience adversity to grow strong enough to overcome it. Remember, it is not what struggles happen during our lives that determine how well we’ve lived. It is what we choose to do next during those unexpected times of struggle that defines our character and determines our happiness.

In other words, we must develop grit. In author Paul Tough’s book, How Children Succeed, the journalist says that using IQ and academic success as a predictor of future accomplishment is wrong. Through exhaustive research, he discovers that noncognitive skills like gratitude, optimism, curiosity, and grit are far better predictors of high achievement.

So, what’s the message? When it comes to success, it doesn’t really matter what other people say, or even how they perceive you. It doesn’t matter what talent you’re born with or what skills you acquire early in your career. It doesn’t even matter whether the economy is strong or weak, or what the market is doing today and where it’s going tomorrow. What matters is that you understand there’s no substitute for hard work. As the saying goes, if you’re interested in being successful, you’ll do what’s convenient, but if you’re committed to being successful, you’ll do whatever it takes. Basketball coach Tim Notke said, “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” Your competition may have more innate talent than you do, but tell yourself they’ll never outwork you. That’s tough love. That’s the chrysalis you’ll have to break on your own. Because in the end, the only one who can determine how high you’ll really fly is you.

Thoughts on Leadership: Lessons from Katherine Johnson

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me at home on Monday celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day. On Tuesday, I had an early morning Berkshire Hathaway Energy call and monthly leadership virtual meetings. Wednesday through today (and really, for the rest of this week), I’m working on various projects and in between those projects, sat down to write this post to you.

This week our HomeServices family of companies honored the tradition of MLK Day of Service with a wide variety of company events. So, in the spirit of leaders who give back, I want to dedicate this post to a Black leader whose contributions changed our country, our world and really, our entire universe: Katherine Johnson.

Read more: Thoughts on Leadership: Lessons from Katherine Johnson

Johnson lived an extraordinary life. She was born in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia in 1918 and immediately it was clear she had a penchant for – and brilliance with – numbers. By age 13, Johnson was already attending high school classes. At age 18, she enrolled at West Virginia State College, where she excelled in mathematics and was mentored by math professor W.W. Schieffelin Claytor, the third Black American to earn a PhD in mathematics. In 1937, she graduated West Virginia State College with the highest honors and began working at a teaching job at a Black public school in Virginia.

In 1939, when West Virginia quietly integrated its graduate schools, West Virginia State president Dr. John W. Davis chose Johnson and two other men to be the first Black students at the state’s flagship graduate school, West Virginia University. Johnson left her job teaching and enrolled in the program, though she left the program shortly after the first session to start a family. When her children were older, Johnson returned once again to teaching.

Several years later, in 1952, a relative told Johnson about a few open positions at the all-Black West Area Computing section at the Langley laboratory at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). Johnson moved with her family to Newport News, Virginia and started working at Langley in the summer of 1953.

For the next four years, she analyzed fight data and plane crashes, and in 1958, her mathematics work was used in “Notes on Space Technology,” a series of lectures by engineers in the Flight Research Division and the Pilotless Aircraft Research Division (PARD) who would become the Space Task Group, NACA’s first official exploration into the possibilities of space travel. Later that year, when NACA turned over operations to NASA, Johnson, according to NASA “came along with the program.” The year prior, she co-authored a report along with engineer Ted Skopinski – “Determination of Azimuth Angle at Burnout for Placing a Satellite Over a Selected Earth Position” – and this credit marked the first time a woman in the Flight Research Division was named on a research report.

Her work on NASA’s Mercury program (1961-1963) was perhaps what she’s most well-known for today. In 1961, Johnson’s calculations of the path from Freedom 7 sent the first U.S. astronaut – Alan B. Shepard, Jr. – into space. In 1962, Johnson began work on an orbital flight for astronaut John Glenn that required the building of a complex communications network around the globe.

Despite the intense work to create this network, astronauts were hesitant to trust their lives to electronics. “Get the girl,” Glenn told his engineers, during the preflight checklist.

“The girl,” of course, was the brilliant Johnson, who ran the same equations that were programmed into the computer all by hand, using a desktop mechanical calculating machine.

Johnson would later recall Glenn saying, “If she says they’re good, then I’m ready to go.”

On February 20, 1962, Glenn became the first American to orbit Earth. The mission, thanks to Johnson, was a success, and marked the beginning of NASA’s accomplishments in human spaceflight.

So, what’s the message? During Johnson’s 33 years spent at Langley, she co-authored 26 research reports and among many, many achievements, was part of the team that made calculations about when to launch the rocket for the 1969 Apollo 11 mission that sent the first three men to the moon. She also worked on the space shuttle program. In 2015, at age 97, President Barack Obama awarded her with the prestigious Presidential Medal of Freedom, though sadly in February 2020 Johnson passed away at the age of 101. When once asked about her time at Langley, Johnson said, “I loved going to work every single day,” proving that when you love something that much, you can achieve goals that are out of this world.

Thoughts on Leadership: Leadership Lessons from St. Nick

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me starting Monday with my typical WIG calls. On Tuesday, I had an early morning Berkshire Hathaway Energy weekly executive team meeting followed by succession planning calls, which continued into Wednesday. On Wednesday, I participated in HomeServices of America’s December corporate team gathering and today, I sit down to write this post to you.

There’s no such thing as a gingerbread cookie-cutter template for the perfect leader. All leaders are different and have their unique strengths. However, leaders do share several traits: They inspire, they motivate, they lead by example, and they spread joy and cheer to every member of their team.

Read more: Thoughts on Leadership: Leadership Lessons from St. Nick

And what better leader to find inspiration from than Old St. Nick? He balances quite a lot on his sleigh and this year had to manage the North Pole through a shifting marketplace, but everything he does, he does with jolly good cheer.

St. Nick abides by the four disciplines of execution. First, he focuses on his Wildly Important Goals: bringing cheer to everyone around the world and putting smiles on our faces during the holiday season. Second, he acts on his lead measures. He loads his sleigh, maps out his gift-giving route and slides down chimneys to deliver gifts. Third, he keeps a compelling scoreboard, checking his list twice and keeping score of who’s been naughty and who’s been nice. Finally, he creates a cadence of accountability by meeting with his elves once per week all year long. During these meetings, his elves announce how many toys they’ve assembled that week and how many they’ll commit to assemble in the week ahead. (“This week I made 10 LEGO sets, five bicycles and two yo-yos, and next week I’ll make 12 LEGO sets, seven bicycles and three yo-yos …”)

He’s jolly. Leadership is about maintaining a positive mindset, and you can’t get much more positive than the always-smiling St. Nick. Maybe part of his jolly attitude comes from always giving back to others. Humans (even St. Nick!) are hard-wired to have positive responses to giving back. After we complete a kind act, our brain’s pleasure sensors are activated and our bodies release feel-good endorphins, which has been called a “helper’s high.” Over time, giving back can even reduce overall stress levels, which is good news for St. Nick because he’s dealing with a lot of moving (toy) parts each holiday season.

He’s a master at time management. Deliver presents to children across the world? Check. Do it all before the sun rises and the hot cocoa is on the stove? Check. If St. Nick’s time isn’t managed properly, he can’t succeed at his job, shimmying down chimneys and delivering presents across the world in the span of a single night.

He knows how to achieve team chemistry. St. Nick manages a huge staff of elves and reindeer! Each one has an assigned task, and St. Nick knows that the holiday season can’t happen unless there’s perfect holiday chemistry within the team. Here’s that famous passage from The Boys and the Boat, modified with holiday cheer:

“There is a thing that sometimes happens in [a sleigh] that is hard to achieve and hard to define. Many [sleigh riders], even winning [sleigh riders], never really find it. Others find it but can’t sustain it. It’s called ‘swing.’ It only happens when all [reindeer] are [flying] in such perfect unison that not a single action by any one is out of sync with those of all the others. It’s not just that the [reindeer] [dip and soar] through the [night sky] at precisely the same instant. [Thirty-two reindeer legs] must begin to pull, [sixteen antlers] must [be perfectly aligned], eight [reindeer] bodies must begin to slide forward and backward, eight [reindeer] backs must bend and straighten all at once. Each minute action – each subtle turning of [the sleigh] – must be mirrored exactly by each [reindeer], from one end of the [sleigh] to the other. Only then will the [sleigh] continue to run, unchecked, fluidly and gracefully between [homes as St. Nick delivers his presents]. Only then will it feel as if the [sleigh] is a part of each of them, moving as if on its own. Only then does pain entirely give way to exultation. [Sleigh riding] then becomes a kind of perfect language. Poetry, that’s what a good [sleigh’s] swing feels like.”

So, what’s the message? Now that we’re all inspired by St. Nick, let’s end this message with “Simple Abundance“ readings shared by Tammy Maddente, president and general sales manager of First Weber, to her team earlier this week:

  • On the first day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves: The gift of my Undivided Attention
  • On the second day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves: The gift of Enthusiasm
  • On the third day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves: The gift of Creative Energy
  • On the fourth day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves: The gift of Simple Seasonal Pleasures
  • On the fifth day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves: The gift of Tenderness
  • On the sixth day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves: The gift of Good Cheer
  • On the seventh day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves: The gift of Beauty
  • On the eighth day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves: The gift of Communication
  • On the ninth day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves: The gift of Surprise
  • On the tenth day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves: The gift of Wonder
  • On the eleventh day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves: The gift of Peaceful Surroundings
  • On the twelfth day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves: The gift of Joy

Happy Holidays!

Gino

Thoughts on Leadership: Leadership Lessons from Jimmy G

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me starting Monday with my typical WIG calls. On Tuesday I traveled to Dallas to attend Pierce Allman’s celebration of life (read a tribute to his leadership and legacy here). On Wednesday, I was back in Orange County to attend Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Lifestyle Properties’ grand opening event and today I traveled to Houston to be a guest speaker at the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Premier Properties Annual Managers Retreat where I will present The 17 Ways To Win

In A Changing Market, How To Create A Lifeplan and The HomeServices System.

Read more: Thoughts on Leadership: Leadership Lessons from Jimmy G

It was a tough week to be a 49ers fan, despite an earlier victory against the Miami Dolphins. On Sunday, we learned starting quarterback Jimmy “GQ” Garoppolo was out for the rest of the season with a broken foot. (In better news, doctors have since said that he doesn’t need surgery and could return in seven or eight weeks, just in time for the playoffs.) And while that’s not the kind of news you want to hear as a Niners fan, Jimmy G is the kind of leader you’d want to have in any situation. Here are the characteristics that make him such a fantastic leader:

  • Perseverance
  • Confidence
  • Toughness
  • Love
  • Identity
  • Humility
  • Calm
  • Collaboration

Now let’s dive deeper into how those characteristics play out on and off the field for Jimmy G:

  1. Perseverance. Any list of Jimmy’s leadership attributes must start with perseverance. No matter his injuries or his perceived ineffectiveness by the general NFL media, Jimmy just keeps doing his thing. He is not flashy, he does not have gaudy stats, he just wins football games. Jimmy seems to have established the culture of his team. His work ethic is second to none and his attitude is always positive. He’s been through many battles and Jimmy has earned the respect of his teammates. So when the game is on the line, the 49ers often pull through.
  2. Confidence. Jimmy is a winner. His confidence in his winning abilities and attitude have propelled his career. He was 19-7 in his last two years playing at Eastern Illinois and threw for 84 touchdowns. After he was drafted in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots – right in the middle of their dynasty’s glory days – he won two Super Bowl rings playing as Tom Brady’s backup quarterback. At the 2017 draft deadline, the 49ers traded to get him and just one month later, he was the starting quarterback for the Niners, helping the team to five consecutive wins to end the season. He has an overall 39-18 record as a starter and a .684 win percentage, which puts him in elite ranks with the likes of Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson. 
  3. Toughness. Jimmy is tough and often plays through injury, maybe to a fault. But this toughness also translates off the field. In the offseason, the 49ers had hoped to trade him but shoulder surgery in 2021 prevented them from making the trade. No matter the scenario – good or bad – Jimmy has a linebacker’s mentality while playing a quarterback position. He’s not afraid of contact. He’s what you’d call a “flatliner,” enabling him to perform well even under the most trying of game situations. Whatever you say about Jimmy G (high turnover rate seems to be the most prevailing criticism), you can’t say he’s not tough. Injury after injury, recovery after recovery, he’s returned to show up and win.
  4. Love. Jimmy’s teammates love him and his leadership style, no matter what the media thinks of his abilities. The 49ers’ tight end George Kittle said: “When Jimmy’s rollin’, I think we’re rollin’. He’s a [heck] of a leader out there, and he really inspires us to play our best ball.” Three seasons ago, the 49ers nearly won the championship. Last year, they almost made it into the Super Bowl. He helped get all that done even with painful injuries in his throwing shoulder and thumb.
  5. Identity. Jimmy is the undisputed leader of the 49ers. Key wins last year during the playoffs arguably put him among the franchise’s most significant players, including Ronnie Lott, Joe Montana, Dwight Clark, Joe Staley, Frank Gore and Bryant Young. Somehow, Jimmy’s leadership has a unique ability to consume everything into its orb – his identity is the team’s identity because he leads it. When he shakes off mistakes, the team can shake off mistakes. When he walks into the locker room with confidence, it brings confidence to every single player. When he makes plays that are scrappier than they are superstar-quality, the team plays scrappier, too. He was committed to the team even after Trey Lance was named starting quarterback at the beginning of 2022. He gives the 49ers franchise a foundation and upon this foundation everything else is built. His playing isn’t perfect, but he knows how to put a win together. That’s been the legacy of the 49ers’ success.
  6. Humility. In February of this year, Jimmy delivered a heartfelt goodbye video, knowing his days with the team were coming to an end: “Faithful, thank you very much for everything,” Jimmy said. “It’s been crazy, man. Just all the comebacks at Levi’s, comebacks on the road, ups and downs, it’s been a [heck] of a ride, guys. I love you guys. See ya.” As the story goes, Trey Lance broke his ankle in the first quarter of San Francisco’s Week 2 win against the Seattle Seahawks and Jimmy returned to the team as quarterback. In discussing the incident, Tom Brady said: “I’ve known Jimmy since he was a rookie and Jimmy and I have been friends a long time. And just seeing him, how he’s handled kind of his own adversity, is really gonna prepare him for what’s ahead. It’s interesting in the NFL, you know, when one door closes, I think another one opens … And as tough as it is for Trey to get injured, Jimmy steps in there and does a great job … things have a crazy way of working out. … You never know when that opportunity’s gonna present itself and when you get it, you gotta go out and take advantage of it.”
  7. Calm. When trouble comes, Jimmy G never panics. 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa said: “I’m impressed with his demeanor just as a leader. A lot of people give him [trouble] for whatever. But he’s as cool and collected of a quarterback as I’ve ever had and he’s a perfect guy to lead us to where we need to go.” Kittle said: “Jimmy G, you can’t say enough about that guy. The [bad things] that he takes … Just consistently people try to pull him down and all he does is try to deliver. And he leads this team. He’s the sense of calm in the huddle, he’s the sense of calm in the storm. He allows us to play football at a high level.”  
  8. Collaboration. When Trey Lance was set to replace Jimmy last year, you’d think the quarterback would scoff at any chance to make Lance better. The opposite was true. “He’s been a big bro to me when he came in,” said Lance. “He could have made things [horrible] for me last year and he didn’t. He helped me out with everything. Jimmy might have taken some inspiration on this one from his mentor, Tom Brady, who helped him after the 2014 draft when he joined the Patriots. Former 49ers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders summed this one up best: “There’s certain people who know who they are. Jimmy G. knows who he is. Jimmy G. plays with swagger; Jimmy G. has his own swagger. He’s not walking around saying it, but Jimmy G. plays with swagger. Jimmy G. is a leader. He’s a natural leader. I’ve played with a lot of quarterbacks. When I tell you this guy is a leader, he’s a leader. He allows guys to follow him, not just by how he works, but when he comes in and he’s running meetings like coaches? He’s a natural born leader.” Bottom line: He helped Lance because he wanted Lance to succeed.

So, what’s the message? While the story of Jimmy G’s leadership was far from straightforward, all this back and forth, testing his toughness, his confidence, and his ability to lead, could very well produce the best version of Jimmy G possible. Coming back from yet another injury, he’ll have nothing to lose and everything to prove – the perfect scenario for a leader as incredible as Jimmy G to shine.

Thursday Thoughts on Leadership: A Tribute to Pierce Allman

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me at home, starting Monday with my typical WIG calls. On Tuesday, I participated in an early morning Berkshire Hathaway Energy call and was a guest speaker for the team at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New Jersey Properties, where I spoke on “Ways to Thrive in a Shifting Market.” Today, I presented to the team at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Lifestyle Properties, and tomorrow, I’ll wrap up 15 succession planning calls that happened over the course of this week with leaders from across HomeServices.

Read more: Thursday Thoughts on Leadership: A Tribute to Pierce Allman

While my work schedule was typical, this week was anything but, as I mourned the loss of my dear friend, Pierce Allman. He passed away on November 25 with his beloved family by his side, including his wife, Allie Beth of Allie Beth Allman and Associates, which is widely recognized as one of the most productive and fastest-growing residential real estate companies in Dallas. Pierce’s legacy no doubt contributed to this overwhelming success.

We’ve all experienced that special moment when you meet someone and have instant chemistry. That’s what I had with Pierce.

He lived an incredible life. A devoted husband, father, grandfather, entrepreneur, community leader, preservationist and philanthropist, Pierce co-founded Allie Beth Allman and Associates with Allie Beth. He was renowned for his marketing brilliance, industry expertise, sharp wit and impeccable style. Pierce was not only an integral part of our HomeServices family but also an integral part of American history.

Born January 5, 1934 in Little Rock, Arkansas, Pierce showed a penchant for the extraordinary at a very early age. As a child, he earned 104 out of 105 available merit badges with the Boy Scouts of America, becoming the youngest Eagle Scout in the nation. He also started a paper route for The Dallas Morning News, which he continued into his college days, and thanks to a later scholarship from the publication, was able to enroll at Southern Methodist University (SMU) where he studied radio and television broadcast.

He graduated from SMU in 1954 and joined the U.S. Air Force, serving in the Strategic Air Command in Austin, Texas from 1955 through 1957 before moving to Dallas to work for WFAA radio. He made his way quickly up the ladder from announcer to program director.

Pierce told me his time at WFAA was “an adventure,” recalling how as a crew cut-sporting professional in his mid-20s, he was about 25 years younger than the average age of a WFAA employee. During his time there, he pioneered many innovative programs and initiatives, including a call-in talk show (“in those days, it was a little edgy,” he said) and much of his programming would evolve into what we know as standard, modern-day radio and podcasting today.

At WFAA, Pierce met a young Texas Christian University graduate named Allie Beth McMurtry, who became the absolute love of his life. They married in 1963 and about one month after the wedding, on November 22 (exactly 59 years and nine days before this tribute is published), Pierce witnessed an event that would change his life forever.

Where were you when JFK was shot?

It’s a question that defines three generations – The Greatest Generation, The Silent Generation and the Baby Boomers. A moment of tragic remembrance …

I was in my third grade class …

But Pierce was there. And not just standing among the crowds as the motorcade passed by but across the street from the Texas School Book Depository and then, inside it minutes after shots were fired.

Pierce told me, around noon on November 22, he decided at the last minute to walk with a WFAA colleague the four blocks to see Kennedy’s motorcade – with President Kennedy and First Lady Jackie Kennedy inside. (“The closest thing to royalty was coming to town,” he said.)

Together, Pierce and his colleague walked along Houston Street in the early afternoon. Here’s the story he told me: “I remember a couple of blocks over, I kept looking at the buildings and rooftops and the open windows and I kept wondering, ‘How can they secure all that?’ And I don’t know why, but we got about a block away and I turned to my colleague and said, ‘You know, if there were to be anything like an assassination attempt, it would probably be here.’”

They kept walking, finally arriving on the corner opposite the front door of the Texas School Book Depository, a seven-floor building facing Dealey Plaza that housed a school textbook distribution firm.

The First Lady was closest to Pierce as he watched their motorcade drive by; JFK sitting on her other side. He saw the President brush hair out of his face, saw the “marvelous” Jackie O and got so carried away in the awe of the moment, he hollered, “Welcome to Dallas, Mr. President.”

The motorcade turned a corner.

Pierce told me when the first shot happened, no one around him even recognized it as a shot (he asked his colleague if it was firecrackers), but then there was a second and a third shot … Pierce said he looked up to where the sound was coming from, to the Texas School Book Depository building. The motorcade car sped off and Pierce thought, ‘I’ve got to get to a phone.’ (All this happened in the span of 18 or 19 seconds.)

He crossed the street and went up the steps of the Texas School Book Depository, passing a man on his way and asked him where a phone was.

“In there,” the man said.

Inside the lobby of the Texas School Book Depository, Pierce found a phone and called in to the radio station, all the while wondering exactly what to say and unsure of what he just witnessed. Was the President dead? Was it a solid hit? What condition was JFK in now? Pierce had no idea, but with the Russian Cold War still raging, he told me he wasn’t about to go on air from the lobby of this building and say the President had been shot, only to inadvertently initiate WWIII.

“There was an unreal quality to the entire thing,” he told me.

But Pierce would forever go down in history as one of the first media representatives on the scene during the Kennedy assassination.

And the story gets even more intense.

Pierce said less than two weeks after the assassination, he received a call from the Secret Service, asking for an interview. He went down to the police station and started detailing the afternoon to them. He went through the entire ordeal several times, and finally the Secret Service said, “In the testimony of Lee Harvey Oswald, he states that as he was leaving the Depository building, a young man with a crew cut identified himself as a newsman and asked for a phone. Based on what he’s said and what you’ve said, this is you.”

Yes, Pierce not only reported live from the scene of JFK’s assassination but also came face to face with JFK’s assassin moments after the shots were fired. He didn’t just witness history; he was part of it. Over the past 59 years, countless news organizations have used his eyewitness report. And because he was live on the scene, Pierce started what would become the 24/7 news cycle we know today.

To keep JFK’s legacy alive, Pierce was a key player in the founding of the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, and his voice is the one you’ll hear if you take an audio tour.

After his work at WFAA and later at SMU, Pierce started a public relations division for Tracy Locke, winning the prestigious Clio Award (among others) for his work. When Pierce and Allie Beth founded Allie Beth Allman Real Estate (known now as Allie Beth Allman and Associates) in 1985, he served as the company’s Director of Marketing and instituted brilliant and visionary initiatives – the use of color in newspaper advertising, catchy taglines like “Some firms follow the Market, We Make the Market,” The Allmanac and more.

In addition to his marketing and communications genius, he was dedicated to giving back, becoming heavily involved in several local foundations and non-profit organizations that positively impacted the lives of thousands within his community, a patriarchal figure to the city that gave so much to him. In 2017, he was named Dallas Father of the Year.

So, what’s the message? I feel incredibly fortunate to have met Pierce and wish I had met him sooner in my life so we could have spent more time together. He was insightful, smart, kind and humble – everything a great leader should aspire to be.

Pierce, we all miss you. Though you are no longer with us, the tremendous legacy you leave behind is a testament to the extraordinary life you lived.

Thoughts on Leadership: Lessons for Today

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me at home, starting Monday with a Berkshire Hathaway Energy call followed by my typical WIG calls. On Tuesday, I traveled to Dallas to attend and participate in Tom Ferry’s Success Summit and today, I attended the Dallas Business Journal Women in Business 2022 Awards honoring Allie Beth Allman.

It was a week of meeting and learning – my favorite thing to do. As the saying goes, once you think you know it all, your slide to mediocrity has already begun.

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Thoughts on Leadership: The Story of Sylvester Stallone

By Gino Blefari:

This week my travels find me at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront Hotel for Stronger Together, the first annual HomeServices of America top performer event. Onstage at Stronger Together, I talked about an interesting tale, which I’d like to share with all of you now.

Have you ever seen the Rocky movies? Rocky is one of the highest-grossing media franchises in the world and has inspired countless people to (cue “Eye of the Tiger”) work hard to achieve their dreams. The story is so great but there’s actually an even better story and that’s the story of Sylvester Stallone.

Read more: Thoughts on Leadership: The Story of Sylvester Stallone

Like Robert “Rocky” Balboa, Stallone knows a lot about setbacks and comebacks, and it all started at birth. There were serious complications and at the last minute, the doctor had to use forceps to save his life. Stallone was brought into this world head first, and the nerves on the left side of his face died. 

Not only did he have a tough birth, but he also had a tough childhood. His parents divorced at a young age, and he was in six foster homes and went to 11 schools. (He was also kicked out of a number of them.)

At age 15, he moved into his mother’s apartment in Philadelphia but he always felt like something was missing. He believed his destiny was to become an actor, so after attending high school in Philadelphia and studying drama at the University of Miami, Stallone moved back to New York and later to Los Angeles to pursue his dreams.

Stallone passionately auditioned, hopping from one casting call to the next, but each time the casting director would tell him the same thing: Look at your face. No, we don’t have a part for you.

They didn’t like the way he spoke. They didn’t like the way he looked. He kept striking out and took on odd jobs just to support him and his wife. A few years later, he and his wife divorced.

So now here he is, a failed would-be actor, alone and depressed. For a while, he started believing what people were saying about him. They were telling him to stay down, and he bought into every word. Then someone said to Stallone: You seem to communicate stories well. Maybe you shouldn’t be an actor. Maybe you should be a writer.

Following the advice, he put his acting dreams on hold and wrote the script for a movie called “Paradise Alley.” He sold that script for $100. It was the first money he’d really ever made in his entertainment career. Years later, he made the movie.

The next part of the story is so unbelievable, I had to do some research to validate every detail and separate the urban legend from fact. Here’s what happened next: After that initial movie, Stallone was still poor and down on himself. He was so desperate and defeated he took his only companion left in his life – his dog – and went and sold his dog for $50 just so he could eat. (True story, not a Hollywood myth.)

Two nights later, he was meeting his friend at a sports bar and the TV in the corner was showing a fight. This was before Pay-Per-View when you could actually see fights. The inspiration for Rocky was a real-life fight between the world heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali and a little-known club fighter named Chuck Wepner. In March 1975, Wepner went 15 rounds against Ali in a title bout in Cleveland.

Ali didn’t take the fight seriously. He came out and in the first round Wepner knocked him down, just like in Rocky. Ali gets up and punishes the guy. Round after round he is battered, bloodied, bruised and yet, he keeps on coming and coming and Stallone is watching and becomes fired up at this display of such intense courage.

He was so inspired by that fight, he wrote the script for Rocky in just three and a half days.

When he’s done, Stallone takes the screenplay to the same people he’d sold the $100 “Paradise Alley” script to, and they loved it. Just one month after he sold his dog for $50, Stallone is offered $150,000 for Rocky. (Today that’s the equivalent of about $760,000.)

But the story doesn’t end with this offer. There’s a problem. Stallone tells the studio he’s going to be the main character. They say: Not a chance. You talk funny. You have a strange mouth. You’re a good writer, be a writer.

He tells them no; I’m an actor and I want to act. They go back and forth for a while and Stallone eventually turns them down for their offer. They return to Stallone three weeks later and offer him $250,000 for the script. (That’s the equivalent of $1.3 million today for the guy who was just forced to sell his dog).

Stallone again refuses, holding firm that if he’s not in the movie as Rocky, there is no movie. He told them he is the character and lived the life that Rocky lived. He knew he was this character and if he doesn’t act in the movie, he would regret it for the rest of his life.

He believed it was his calling to be an actor and if he couldn’t pursue his calling, it simply wasn’t worth it for any amount of money.

Finally, they caved and said they’d give Stallone $35,000 for the script and $23,000 for acting in it.

Stallone said OK if he could have 10% of the box office gross.

The studio spent $985,000 to make the movie. To put that number in perspective, it cost $15 million to make a James Bond movie that same year.

Anyway, you know what happened next. Rocky grossed $200 million. It went on to become a billion-dollar franchise. There were six Rocky movies made.

At the 1977 Academy Awards, Rocky was nominated for no fewer than 10 categories. And the $20 million Stallone made is the equivalent of $100 million today.

So, what’s the message? If you’re following your calling and stick to your dreams, the money will always come.

P.S. As soon as he got the money for the script, Stallone was able to buy his dog back for $3,000 and a part in the Rocky movie.

Thoughts on Leadership: Lessons from Bud Winter

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me at home, starting Monday with my typical WIG calls. Next, I traveled to Orange County to provide a “State of the Market” during the Asian Real Estate Association of America O.C. Chapter Luxury Redefined event, where I had the chance to share the stage with Sharon Tay of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties. (Read more about that here.) On Wednesday, I worked from the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices HQ office in Irvine and attended the virtual leadership meeting at California Properties led by President Martha Mosier where I provided the team with an economic update on the market.

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Thoughts on Leadership: Leadership Lessons from ‘Ted Lasso’

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me at home, starting Monday with my typical WIG calls and the Berkshire Hathaway Energy morning call. On Tuesday, I had a one-day turnaround business trip. On Wednesday, I traveled to Tampa, Florida to attend the National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB) National Convention and earlier today, I delivered a keynote speech to the attendees. NAREB is doing important work to urge Black Americans not to defer their dream of homeownership and I was grateful to lend my voice to this profound – and ongoing – mission.

As many of you know, I love to listen to books but sometimes while resting and recharging, I tune into movies or TV shows that provide inspiration in unconventional ways. One of those shows is “Ted Lasso,” about an American football coach who finds himself coaching a British soccer team, even though he knows next to nothing about the sport. As we watch Ted deal with the challenges of coaching, we realize this show is basically a master class in leadership. Here are just a few lessons from Ted Lasso:

  • Relationships are in the details.
  • Make it a point to know the names and birthdays of every member on your team.
  • Create a cadence of accountability. (Ted does this with daily “biscuits with the boss” morning check-ins.)
  • Don’t harp on the losses; use the progress of the people around you as a benchmark for success in what Ted calls “the infinite game.”
  • Live like a goldfish. They have a 10-second memory; if you mess up, learn from it then quickly move on.
  • Know that tackling a challenge is just like riding a horse. If you’re comfortable when you’re doing something difficult, you are probably doing it wrong.
  • Leaders empower leaders, just like Ted does with often-overlooked “kit man” Nate Shelley who eventually becomes a member of the coaching team.
  • Treat everyone with kindness. (Nate was not treated well by anyone before Ted’s arrival.)
  • Optimism over everything.
  • You must always believe in yourself.
  • Even when the odds are stacked against you, find positivity in the situation and keep moving forward.

So, what’s the message? Leadership can – and should – be fun. There’s humor to be found in any situation. There’s positivity to be found in even the most negative of circumstances. There are insights to be gleaned from every member of your team, and there are advantages to gain from truly getting to know who you work with and showing them, like Ted does, just how much you care.

P.S. If you watch this show and there’s anything you’ve learned from Ted Lasso that I’ve left out, please let me know!

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