Thoughts on Leadership: Ideas for Coping with a Downward-moving Market

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me at home, starting Monday with my typical WIG calls then attending the NBA Finals’ Golden State Warriors game in the evening. On Tuesday, I participated in the Berkshire Hathaway Energy call and had a 2023 plan working session with Berkshire Hathaway Energy, followed by the monthly CEO virtual leadership meeting. Yesterday, I had an acquisition dinner meeting; and today, I am in team meetings and sitting down to write this post to you.

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Thoughts on Leadership: A Post for Pride

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me starting off the holiday week on Tuesday at home with an early morning Berkshire Hathaway Energy call followed by my typical WIG calls. These WIG calls were moved from Monday but still conducted for consistency, and as an important aside, let me expand on why we held the WIG session on Tuesday rather than skipping a week: Ideally, WIG sessions are held at the same time every day and every week. This consistency is critical; without it, your team will not be able to establish a sustained rhythm of performance. Missing even a single week causes you to lose valuable momentum and this loss of momentum impacts your results. This means the weekly WIG session is sacred and takes place even if the leader cannot attend and has delegated the role of leading it to someone else.

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Thoughts on Leadership: Lessons from New York

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me starting Monday at home, conducting my typical WIG calls. On Tuesday, I hopped on an early flight to Uncasville, Connecticut for an incredible event at the Mohegan Sun, led by Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties/New York Properties/Hudson Valley Properties President and President and CEO Candace Adams. I congratulated the team on stage and was with them for a fantastic celebration, including a team dinner on Wednesday night. The energy at the event was electric. It was the first time many of those team members had seen each other in person since the pandemic began. Candace did a fantastic job as emcee, and we heard from Steven and Debbie Domber, Steven James, Brad Loe and Allan Dalton. It was amazing to see how fired up Steven James and Brad Loe are to take over the New York market. When he spoke, Steven’s passion and energy left no doubt in anyone’s mind that his prediction to be No. 1 in New York would happen soon.

Today, we drove to Rye Brook, New York and spent the afternoon with Houlihan Lawrence and President and CEO Liz Nunan where we toured the Houlihan Lawrence offices and had a luncheon in the Houlihan Lawrence Agent Development Center. I gave a leadership presentation and then attended an agent networking open house.

We then drove to Manhattan, where I write this post to you now, and because the Big Apple is so inspiring to me, it’s our topic for today.

New York City has a vibe unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. It’s palpable. You can practically reach out and touch it, as it buzzes in shades of taxi-cab yellow and skyscraper gray across the city that never sleeps. Here are a few ways I’ve been inspired by the people and places of this global metropolis:

First in, last out. In his aptly named book, “First In, Last Out,” New York City Fire Department (FDNY) Battalion Chief John Salka explains how the FDNY’s strategies can be applied to any business and any leader. By first in and last out, Salka references the idea that a leader, just like those who lead the FDNY, should always be the proverbial first one to charge into the room when it’s on fire, and the last one to leave before the fire is completely extinguished. It’s a lesson in ultimate accountability; as the leader, you are the person others follow and you also set the example, never abandoning even a burning building until the flames of challenge are extinguished and you’re treading on safer, more sustainable, more successful ground.

Gratitude unlocks endless improvement. When asked for our #LeadershipPGI social media series about the one thing she’s doing this week to become better than she was last week, Liz Nunan said this: “Practice daily gratitude. I find that it leads to a more positive mindset, helps when I need to deal with adversity, and has helped me build strong relationships, both personally and professionally.” Gratitude, as I say, is an attitude! And while it helps strengthen your mindset, as Liz explains, it also helps you on your path of perpetual improvement. With gratitude, you look forward, you think positively, and you see the potential in situations rather than whatever is holding you back.

Your team can never hear enough how much you appreciate them. When Candace Adams was asked the same question – “What are you doing to improve this week so you’re even better than you were last week?” – she said: “I am going to reach out to as many people as I can to say thank you for who they are and what they do.” And showing how much you care isn’t just good for strengthening trust, connection, and respect among your team, it also strengthens the team itself. In a 2020 Harvard Business Review article, authors Kerry Roberts Gibson, Kate O’Leary and Joseph R. Weintraub wrote that letting your team know you appreciate them enhances productivity and the team’s ability to perform given tasks. Why? Because everyone wants to know that the hard work they’re putting in doesn’t go unnoticed.

Team members need a voice – and that voice must be heard. Writing for the Harvard Business Review, authors Bruce A. Strong and Mary Lee Kennedy documented the process of change at the New York Public Library, one of the largest public libraries worldwide. An estimated 18 million people visit the library each year. (And one of them was Sylvester Stallone who wrote the screenplay to “Rocky” in three days at the New York Public Library.) So, when it became clear the library needed to shift its strategies amid an ever-changing digital world, what did the leaders at the New York Public Library do? They asked employees exactly what should happen next. In the spring of 2014, any of the 2,500 staff members had the chance to speak directly with senior leaders, offering their best ideas to digitize the library system. The staff was asked to propose, test and advocate solutions. The senior leaders provided guidance, support, resources and made decisions on those ideas, but it was the staff whose ideas would be carried through. “The project expanded their sense of belonging,” the authors wrote in the Harvard Business Review. And it’s a lesson any leader can take back to their teams. Sometimes problems can’t be solved unilaterally, and instead it takes a collaborative, concerted effort by all to create the change you seek, whether it’s digitizing a massive public library in NYC or providing even better service to your clients.

So, what’s the message? Artist Georgia O’Keeffe once said, “One can’t paint New York as it is, but rather as it is felt.” And I felt that this week in New York. It’s a city that constantly reminds us that sometimes leadership is a set of principles, sometimes it’s a system of execution and sometimes, it’s a feeling that guides us exactly where we want – and need – to go.

Thoughts on Leadership: An InvalYOUable Trip to Louisville

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me in Louisville, Kentucky for the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Sales Convention. Each year, our outstanding events team – led by Vice President of Global Conference & Meeting Services Denise Doyle and the team at Corporate Magic, including the incomparable CEO Jim Kirk – selects a theme, and for 2022 the theme was InvalYOUable. Yes, spelled just like that because at the end of the day, the value you bring to your organization, your clients, your colleagues, and the people in your life is highly individualized, a reflection of your unique experiences, skills, talent, determination and ability to inspire others to achieve their goals faster than they would in your absence. In my life plan, under my role, I have the affirmation: I am a highly disciplined focused leader. I understand my income is a measure of the value I bring to the marketplace.

As I sat in General Sessions, attended networking events, and met with attendees, there are three leaders whose InvalYOUable characteristics shined so bright, I just have to highlight them in our blog post today.

Let’s start with Christy Budnick, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices. From Christy, we learn the power of optimism. Spend 30 seconds around Christy and you’ll understand how infectious her positivity truly is; she lights up a room and when she delivered her keynote at General Session for the first time this year as Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices CEO, her optimism took center stage. Christy is also coachable, she learned from the best: her mother, Linda Sherrer. Linda is founder and chair of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Network Realty. She has been an iconic force in real estate for decades and still is today. From Christy, we also learn the importance of being in the trenches, comprehending the complexities of an industry before you lead it to even bigger and better ways of operating. Christy has been there. A seasoned agent, manager, CEO, she gets real estate because she’s one of us. And that’s a trait we can all learn from and admire.

From keynote speaker Jade Simmons, we learn the power of your personal journey to create breakthroughs in your life. Jade began her presentation playing (no slaying) on a grand piano, as only a professional concert pianist (who played renowned halls including those at the White House and U.S. Supreme Court) could. Jade’s original vision was to be a classical pianist, a life of Rachmaninoff, and said it would sound something like this. On cue, her hands flew across the piano keys in perfect rhythm and mesmerizing crescendos, and we were moved not only by her words but also by the messages she conveyed through her music. Jade explained that she finally came to realize life didn’t have to be one thing or the other, all classics, all day. She played another tune that skillfully combined classical with modern, rhythmic beats, and she told us there is great power in embracing the things we cannot change because those are the things that make you, YOU. Jade understood being a Black female made her distinctive in the classical music world. She also understood that her profound love of rhythm was another opportunity for a breakthrough. Somewhere between her classical journey and combining it with rhythmic excellence, Jade found a photo of herself as a little girl, sitting in diapers playing the African bongos. It was this nostalgic visual that reminded her why she kept coming back to drum lines and beats; rhythm had been a part of her all along. Instead of trying to go the purely classical route, she instead embraced this unique facet of her passions and expanded the once-tight vision she had of how she must succeed. Immediately, everything changed. She did not, as she says, compartmentalize her brilliance, she instead took every extraordinary part of her and used that to find her next breakthrough.

Finally, last but certainly not least, from keynote speaker Magie Cook we learn about perseverance, forgiveness, and mindful success, and even learned the day she delivered her keynote was also her birthday. (The crowd of course sang to her.) It’s funny when I first read the description of Magie Cook before I had the opportunity to hear her speak, I imagined she might be very tall. In high school, Magie had an opportunity to play basketball for the Mexican National Team, until a broken collarbone left her sidelined. Next, she got a scholarship to play for the University of Charleston. So, was Magie a towering 6’3”? Nope. When I saw her in person, she was actually 5’2”, and once you hear her speak, it all makes sense. Magie is fierce. She’s got incredible grit. She grew up one of 68 children in a Mexican orphanage, doing construction work, gathering soil and hunting for her own food at a very early age. She practiced basketball with another orphan (found in a dumpster as a baby). She ran drills blindfolded and was so good her orphan brother thought she could surely see where she was going. Not even something fundamental like height could stop Magie from basketball greatness. She was unstoppable because she had the mindset of a champion. Either life controls you, or you take control of your life, she says. Even when she was homeless after college, living in the streets and in the woods, it didn’t stop her from pursuing her dreams. (She says she didn’t even notice she was homeless because she had grown up much the same way.) As a gift, some friends gave her $800 and she entered a salsa competition, unanimously winning. That one win would turn into an idea for a salsa business that would eventually see her product available in 38 states, major supermarkets and sold to Campbell’s in a multi-million-dollar deal. When she came out to her father, he told her she’d never amount to anything. That she’d wind up in jail with AIDS. She took his cruel words and used them as fuel. (As she says, “If anything can stop you, nothing can stop you.”) She wanted to show her father she would make it, she would succeed and even read a letter her father wrote her years after those terrible words were spoken, where he expressed how proud he was of her. When she read the letter, there wasn’t a dry eye in the Sales Convention house. We were moved by the acceptance in his words, and by the fact that we all know the ending to her story – she did it, she found success despite everything and in her determination to succeed against prejudice, bias, homelessness, poverty and insurmountable odds, we realized that we can do it, too.

So, what’s the message? Christy, Jade and Magie all share one thing in common: their success is the result of their unique attributes, those special traits that make them the incredible leaders they are today. They know their value with absolute conviction and use it to show others just how InvalYOUable they can be.

Thoughts On Leadership: Celebrating Mary W. Jackson

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me at home, starting Monday with my typical WIG calls. On Tuesday, I participated in the Berkshire Hathaway Energy meeting followed by preparation for the virtual CEO conference, which I attended on Wednesday. Today, I traveled to Orange County for a meeting and of course, also spent time writing this post in celebration of Black History Month.

Last week, we showcased my good friend Johnnie Johnson and his book “From Athletics to Engineering: 8 Ways to Support Diversity, Equity and Inclusion”  . The week before, we talked about Russell Wilson and his philosophy on what it takes to win. Today, I want to shift gears to a trailblazing leader, Mary W. Jackson, the first African American female engineer at NASA.

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Thoughts on Leadership: The Power of Giving Back

By Gino Blefari

This week started out Sunday in Las Vegas where I attended the Raiders-Kansas City Chiefs Sunday night football game. Then Monday I flew back to San Francisco for the 49ers-Los Angeles Rams game. as well as taking a WIG call. On Tuesday, I participated in the Berkshire Hathaway Energy call and monthly virtual CEO leadership meeting. I also attended the San Jose Sports Hall of Fame announcement of the 2021 inductees where Intero Real Estate Services was a sponsor for the event. On Wednesday, I traveled to Palm Springs to attend the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Nevada Properties, Arizona Properties and California Properties yearly management retreat with CEO Mark Stark. I held a fireside chat with Mark then took part virtually in the monthly HomeServices of America corporate team gathering. Today, I was a guest speaker at the HomeServices Marketing Conference then had a photoshoot and interview with Andrew Flachner of RealScout. Between today and tomorrow, I’ll participate in three succession planning calls. Tomorrow, I’m looking forward to being a guest speaker on the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach, REALTORS® Friday Forum.

It’s been a productive week and there’s one word that characterizes how I’ve been feeling, especially as we lead up to Thanksgiving: grateful.

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Thoughts on Leadership: The Importance of Grit

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me starting Monday with my typical WIG calls followed by a Berkshire Hathaway Energy meeting in the afternoon. On Tuesday, I traveled to Orange County and had dinner with Martha Mosier, President of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties. On Wednesday, I had a meeting with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices perspectives from Dublin, Ireland; Bucharest, Romania; and Prague, Czech Republic. Afterwards, I met with the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties team members at their Irvine office. I then drove to Palm Springs for meetings in the desert. Today, I am finishing up a few more meetings before traveling home.

As I’ve said many times before, real estate operates on a 90-day cycle. What you do today will payout in 90 days. It’s why you have to be so hyper-focused right now in order to kick off 2022 strong. For some, it’s easy. They keep going and going, even as real estate tends to seasonally slow, and while the holiday season keeps us busy with family and friends. For others, it’s more of a challenge but they work through it and keep themselves focused on their goals.

What is it that makes us wake up and put in the effort, giving it 110% even as holiday parties and Thanksgiving dinner plans take us in all directions other than our work?

In a word, grit.

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Thoughts on Leadership: Leading with Rituals

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me in Denver, Colorado at the Mavericks Meeting hosted by Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Innovative Real Estate CEO Scott Nordby and his team.

The Mavericks Meetings are regular gatherings with a small, think-tank group of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices independently owned and operated franchise CEOs. We meet every six months to exchange ideas and brainstorm. Each meeting is hosted by a different company; this one was hosted by our fantastic brokerage in Denver.

In a sense, the Mavericks Meeting is a twice-yearly ritual. Together, we reignite our collective purpose: to help each other grow.

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Thoughts on Leadership: Happy New Year!

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me at home, starting Monday with my typical WIG calls. On Tuesday, I began the day with the weekly Berkshire Hathaway Energy meeting. Wednesday, I handled some legal matters and Thursday I’ll attend the virtual NAR RES Advisory Group Meeting. I also spent some of the week preparing for the October 12th CEO leadership meeting and next week’s Mavericks meeting in Denver, hosted by Scott Nordby, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Innovative Real Estate, and his team.

To put things in perspective, Friday is October 1 and we just finished up the third quarter. Why is that important? Well, the significance of October 1 in real estate is that it’s the actual start of our new year. Here’s why:

In real estate, we operate on a 90-day cycle. All the prospecting, lead generation and planning we do now is going to pay off three months from now. It’s why our new year doesn’t begin when the clock strikes midnight on January 1. No, our new year starts October 1, so essentially, it begins tomorrow.

Each new “real estate” year requires a new business plan. To get you started on yours, access Business Planning Essentials by clicking HERE.

Creating a business plan now will help you avoid a Q1 slump. Understandably, when the Q4 holidays arrive, people get off schedule. But if you skip ahead 90 days, your holiday lag will show up in January and February, just as you’re kicking off Q1. During my 30+ years in the real estate business—as an agent, a manager, and an owner of a company—I’ve found that there’s always a cash flow problem in the months of January and February. This applies as much to agents as it does to brokerage owners.

A business plan allows you to plan for what’s ahead, and it ensures that the busy holiday season won’t stop you. Remember, business planning isn’t all about business; one important aspect of a business plan is your schedule, which you should complete for the entire year. The first thing to schedule are the most critical business meetings that you can’t miss. Knowing when those occur will help you plan when you need to work and when you can take days off. The next thing you do before you schedule anything else is put in whatever gives you balance, like your vacations and days off. This will ensure that you take the time off you need to recharge and you won’t schedule meetings or calls during the time you’ve blocked off for rest and relaxation. Once you have done that, never make a commitment with your time without checking your schedule first.

Here are a few more reasons why your business needs a plan:

  • To establish goals and milestones.
  • To take time to examine your competition as you outline your own competitive advantages and the areas of your business you need to focus on and improve.
  • To deal with economic conditions effectively. When you look at your business model from a planning perspective (and not while in the midst of a heated obstacle), you have a more objective view of how it can be adapted during times of challenge and change.
  • To discover new opportunities for revenue and growth. As you plan, you’re taking time to critically examine your client base and business model, which may help you discover new ways you can grow your business.

So, what’s the message? Over the years, I’ve been tuned into the cash flow problem of agents and brokerage owners during the months of January and February; but with a business plan, you can avoid those issues. This post is your reminder of the importance of a business plan, which will allow you to start the official new year with momentum and a solid plan for sustainable growth.

Thoughts on Leadership: Leaders as Teachers

By Gino Blefari:

This week my travels find me at home, starting Tuesday with a Berkshire Hathaway Energy meeting and my typical WIG calls. Today I attended an input meeting for the 2022 Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Sales Convention in Louisville and presented Time Management to the team at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach, REALTORS®.

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