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!


Thoughts on Leadership: Lessons from the World Cup

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me starting Monday at home, conducting my typical WIG calls before flying to Orange County. On Tuesday, I participated in the early morning Berkshire Hathaway Energy call followed by the HSF Affiliates Leadership Summit. On Wednesday, the team finished the Leadership Summit, which was followed by the HSF Affiliates holiday luncheon. Today and tomorrow, I’ll host four succession calls from my home office in Northern California, puppy June by my side.

Lately, it seems like everyone has been captivated by the excitement of the World Cup, which began late November and will culminate on December 18. It’s been a whirlwind few weeks in Qatar as countries battle it out for a win. Here are a few lessons inspired by the World Cup:

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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: Happy Thanksgiving!

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me at home, starting Monday with my typical WIG calls. On Tuesday, I visited a Bay area studio to record a voiceover for our HomeServices of America year in review video project and then at exactly 1:17 p.m. had my puppy pick-up at the San Jose International Airport. (Welcome to the family, June!) Today, I closed up the short holiday week and am looking forward to spending time with the family and little June, for which I am so grateful.

Read more: Thoughts on Leadership: Happy Thanksgiving!

And gratitude really is the name of the game this week. I feel grateful to have a job that’s my calling and for the opportunity to work every day with leaders who have become more like family. From service staff members to our CEOs, to our network brokers and owners, to our agents — everyone deserves my ultimate gratitude today and always. As I say, I love what I do largely because of who I get to do it with!

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. It’s non-denominational, making it more widely celebrated; and the Thanksgiving message of gratitude is such a fantastic way to commit to a positive mindset as we get close to the end of the year and get ready to start anew in 2023.

It’s not hard to get into the Thanksgiving spirit. We sit back, relax and eat delicious food. Plus, we have the Bills vs. the Lions, the Giants vs. the Cowboys and the Patriots vs. the Vikings to look forward to …

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”

And Zig Ziglar reminded us, “Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.”

Oprah famously remarked: “Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.”

One of my favorite leaders, John F. Kennedy said, “We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.”

So, what’s the message? I received this thought in my weekly CEO update from Shawna Alt, CEO of First Weber, and I liked it so much, I want to share it with all of you: Please take the time this week to enjoy the people that mean the most to you. Cherish them for who they are, not who you wish they would be. There is so much power in letting go. Let go of assumptions. Let go of being offended. Don’t let the past cause resentment that interferes with the beauty of the present moment. Choose forgiveness. Choose gratitude. Choose love.”

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thoughts on Leadership: Learning from Veterans Day

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me at home, starting Monday with my typical WIG calls. On Tuesday, I participated in the early morning Berkshire Hathaway Energy call followed by a session of handwritten notes for the holidays. (Let this be a gentle reminder to start working on your handwritten holiday cards if you haven’t already.) On Wednesday, I joined the Global Leadership Meeting for our leaders in Europe and Asia then drove to Union City, California to present on the real estate environment and specifically, 16 actions agents can take in a declining market. Today, between succession planning calls, I sat down to write this post to you.

Read more: Thoughts on Leadership: Learning from Veterans Day

As you may have read, early last week I said goodbye to my beloved Kona – for those following the story, I take home my new little best friend on November 22. Then at the end of the week, I celebrated Veterans Day, not only for all brave veterans who protect our freedoms but also for my dad, my Pappy. When my dad turned 18 years old, he was drafted to the Army. He went through training and became a Technician 5th Grade in Company B, 134th Infantry Regiment of the 35th Infantry Division.

He landed on the beaches of Normandy, and his regiment was assigned to the Third Army. Yes, that was old Blood and Guts himself, General George Patton.

He was in General Patton’s Third Army during the Battle of the Bulge, a major World War II German offensive fought in Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany from December 1944 to January 1945. My Pappy would go on to receive two purple hearts for his bravery fighting with Patton’s Third Army.

The most famous part of the Battle of the Bulge occurred around Christmas time in Bastogne, Belgium. Bastogne had a bridge and seven different roads in and out of the town; it was very important strategically. The upshot is the Allies had been surrounded and cut off in Bastogne and needed help.

There was a famous meeting held among all the field generals. The only general that committed to getting to Bastogne was Patton. He said he could attack in three days.

The only problem was my dad, and the rest of the Third Army were 100 miles away and had to hike for three days through tough winter conditions, including deep snow. You heard that right. 100 miles in three days in deep snow during the coldest winter on record. A distance greater than a marathon in boots and combat gear … walking. But they got there.

So, what’s the message? My Pappy’s story proves the resilience and perseverance of veterans –  and that’s just one of so many veterans’ stories. On Veterans Day and every day, the key is not just to thank these brave veterans but also to listen, giving them a chance to share their incredible experiences, so they may live on forever.

Thoughts on Leadership: The Value of Meeting

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in Hawaii, attending a wedding and recharging.

Today I’m writing this post to you as I look out my hotel window at the wind-churned Pacific Ocean, and the waves meeting the sand reminds me about the value of meeting people face to face – our Thoughts on Leadership topic for today.

Read more: Thoughts on Leadership: The Value of Meeting

In-person meetings serve so many purposes. They:

  • Strengthen connections
  • Allow you to learn information as it’s being delivered live
  • Provide opportunities to spend time with your peers
  • … and so much more.

It’s why we put on the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Sales Convention each year. It’s why we organize the HomeServices Stronger Together conference annually. It’s why at industry events you’ll always find the top-of-the-top because they understand the importance of meeting for their personal and professional growth.

Steve Jobs, whose iPad, iPod, iPhone and iEverything provided the foundation for today’s hyper-digital connectivity, once said: “There’s a temptation in our networked age to think that ideas can be developed by email and iChat. That’s crazy. Creativity comes from spontaneous meetings, from random discussions.”

This concept actually reminds me of our daily accountability calls – many times in talking to my accountability partner toward the end of the conversation is when the ideas truly get spurred.

In person, you are privy to side conversations and comments, body language and real time feedback that creates an environment ripe for idea-generation.

How many times have you been at a conference and, while grabbing a quick coffee, bumped into someone you haven’t seen in years? You chat, you exchange contact information, and that person delivers a random nugget of knowledge that then helps you in your next deal, or casually mentions a referral they’d like to send your way … business is not only about structure and systems, but also about spontaneity and serendipity working together to create the alchemy of success.

Another benefit of in-person meetings is the sheer energy in the room. It makes you feel part of something larger than yourself. As we said many, many times during our HomeServices annual top-performer’s event: You are amazing when you’re apart, but WE are STRONGER TOGETHER.

Legendary football coach Vince Lombardi once said: “Individual commitment to a group effort: That is what makes a team work, a society work, a civilization work.” And my mentor Jim Rohn said: “You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

Put these two concepts together and you can see why spending time with tens or hundreds of like-minded individuals will perpetuate the kind of continual improvement necessary for high achievement.

Further, when you’re in person, you can exhibit all the positive signs of someone willing and ready to connect. You can be friendly, maintain eye contact and project an optimistic self-image. Don’t forget to smile! Smiling is free and helps form an instant connection. While smiling sends a clear message about your upbeat state of mind, not smiling can be interpreted negatively as grumpiness, aloofness, or anger. And nobody wants to do business with a grump … or given the upcoming holiday season … a grinch!

So, what’s the message? Remember: Ideas flow where people go, and learning from others’ experience, skill and expertise is what growing together is all about.

Thoughts on Leadership: How Not to Die

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me starting Monday at home with my typical WIG calls then flying to Salt Lake City, Utah for the Berkshire Hathaway Energy 2022 Executive Leadership Conference. On Tuesday and Wednesday, I attended conference sessions on topics ranging from the vision and plan for the future of energy to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Today, I’m on my way to Las Vegas for the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices 2023 Sales Convention Creative Review hosted by Corporate Magic, and as the clouds roll past my airplane window, I write this post to you.

I’ve been listening to nutrition expert Dr. Michael Greger’s compelling book, “How Not to Die,” as I implement healthier changes into my diet and lifestyle. (Remember, it’s all about continual improvement!) Dr. Greger, with extensive research, explains the importance of whole food, plant-based nutrition.

Read more: Thoughts on Leadership: How Not to Die

I first learned about the book on a recent WIG call with Martha Mosier, president of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties.

With the HomeServices philosophy of continuous improvement, we end every leadership call with the answer to the question, “What am I doing to improve so I’m better this week than I was last week?” And in Martha’s response, she mentioned the book.

Her brother – an anesthesiologist in San Diego – was a fit, healthy individual who rode his Peloton every day, but at 60 years old, he was faced with an extremely serious heart condition that required heart surgery. His cardiologist told him, “The only way you will live with this condition is to read the book, ‘How Not to Die.’”

He was (rightly) scared, and he read the book cover to cover and is now transitioning to a plant-based diet. Dr. Greger’s book was an eye-opening experience and launched the family into a new phase of a healthier lifestyle and nutritious eating. In fact, he’s become such a follower of Dr. Greger’s nutritional philosophy that Martha said they will have a vegan-style Thanksgiving!

After Martha’s moving story, I got the book and listened to it every night before I went to bed. Like Martha’s family, reading “How Not to Die” had a similar impact on me.

Dr. Greger says 85% of the leading causes of death in the U.S. can be directly tied to nutrition. He also believes the answer to proper nutrition is through whole (or minimally processed) food and a plant-based diet.

There are so many popular diets and fads and food trends but according to Dr. Greger, what’s far more important than any number on a scale is your overall health. And the dietary choices we make directly contribute to what that overall health will be. Dr. Greger says nutrition isn’t about a quick juice fast or a week-long program, it’s about making sweeping lifestyle changes that will benefit your wellbeing forever. He believes:

  • Poor diet is a huge problem that goes largely ignored.
  • Proper diet must be balanced with daily exercise (90 minutes of moderate exercise or 40 minutes of intense exercise).
  • Eating fruits and vegetables and drinking plenty of water will help thwart off disease.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you should run to the grocery store and switch out all your meat for broccoli (if you know me, you know I love my steak) and you should always consult a medical professional before making any major dietary changes, but the premise of Dr. Greger’s argument is solid: Eat healthier, be healthier.

The typical U.S. diet contains dairy, meat, eggs, and a ton of processed foods. Dr. Greger points to a study that showed when Japanese Americans switched from the Japanese diet – high in vegetables and low in sugar – to a more American-style diet, their risk for heart attack increased. He also names countless groundbreaking studies that show how detrimental processed food can be to your health.

Dr. Greger says any healthy diet should consist of whole, plant-based foods to avoid these harmful, toxic processes. He recommends four servings of fruit, and one of those servings should be berries, which are high in antioxidants and have immune-boosting properties. He also recommends five servings of vegetables each day as vegetables keep cells healthy and aid in liver and lung functions, among many other beneficial qualities.

Overall, Dr. Greger advocates for:

  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Eating beans, or bean products, like lentils, miso, and chickpeas
  • Having berries like cranberries, strawberries, and blueberries
  • Adding cruciferous vegetables to your diet like broccoli, kale, and cabbage
  • Putting greens into your meals like kale, spinach, and arugula
  • Eating nuts and seeds like flax seeds, walnuts, almonds, and pistachios
  • Flavoring your meals with healthy herbs and spices like turmeric, ginger, and pepper (with an emphasis on the health benefits of turmeric)
  • Exercising each day (moderately)

So, what’s the message? Even a small change like drinking more water, adding moderate exercise to your morning routine, or having a few servings of berries throughout the day can make a huge impact. And healthier eating could make you happier! Dr. Greger cites a review in Nutritional Neuroscience that found eating a significant number of fruits and vegetables positively supports brain health, which means being a happier, healthier leader for you and your team.

P.S. If you’d like to purchase the book, click here. Dr. Greger generously donates all proceeds from the book to charity!

Thoughts on Leadership: Lessons from Nick Saban

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in Washington D.C. on Sunday, where I prepared for the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Marketing Forum that kicked off on Monday. The fantastic event was hosted by Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices PenFed Realty (a special thank you to Karmela Lejarde who organized, MCed and hosted the event, along with Kevin Wiles, Jessica Holt and their team). On Tuesday, in addition to the Market Forum, I also joined the monthly HomeServices of America CEO virtual leadership meeting. Wednesday, I traveled back to Northern California. Today, I’m en route to Palm Springs for a site visit to begin planning the second annual Stronger Together HomeServices of America top performer’s event. Between meetings, I sat down to write this post to you.

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Thoughts on Leadership: How’s that Business Plan Going?

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me starting Monday at home, completing my WIG calls and participating in meetings. On Tuesday, I had the early morning Berkshire Hathaway Energy call followed by business planning, which I continued Wednesday. Today, I write this post to you as I prepare to attend a wedding in Arizona.

You already know the question I’m going to ask: Did you complete your business plan? In this previous post, I talked about the importance of business planning and why in our 90-day real estate cycle, October 1 is the start of the “new year.” To set yourself up for success in 2023, you must plan NOW.

And while a business plan is important every year, it’s especially important this year as we work through the challenges of an economic downturn. Why? Let’s list the ways:

  • In a tougher economic climate, a business plan will keep you focused, preventing any knee-jerk, quick reactions to unforeseen obstacles. It will also help you reduce uncertainty by outlining your next steps, goals and the concrete details (like budget and expenses) of your business.
  • It’s a time to evaluate what was working in the past year and what wasn’t (the SWOT Analysis in the Business Planning Essentials is perfect for this).
  • Writing down your monthly goals makes it a lot likelier you’ll achieve them. One famous study from Dr. Gail Matthews at Dominican University in California found writing down goals makes it 42% more likely you’ll accomplish those goals.
  • Goals should be specific, measurable and actionable – and a business plan ensures yours will be.
  • A business plan is like a beacon of light should you find yourself in the shadows of the unknown; it is always there to guide you to a place of success. It’s a proven strategic device you can rely on through roadblocks that may hinder your path to progress.
  • During your business planning process, you’ll likely encounter new opportunities for growth that arise organically from your brainstorming and planning sessions.

So, what’s the message? As Sun Tzu once said, “In the midst of chaos there is also opportunity.” Countless businesses started during periods of economic challenge – Netflix (1997); Trader Joes’ (1958); Microsoft (1975); Warby Parker (2010); Revlon (1932); Disney (1923) to name a few – and were able to stand out because they worked hard, met every challenge and planned for success, just like you’re doing right now.

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