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: Lessons from Kona

By Gino Blefari:

This week my travels find me starting off en route to Minnesota for the in-person HomeServices of America CEO/Leadership meeting taking place at the Westin Edina Galleria. From there, I flew home, participated in meetings and sat down to write this post to you … without my beloved Kona by my side.

Kona passed away in my arms earlier this week and as a dedication to a dog that was so much more than a pet, I am writing this week’s Thoughts on Leadership for her. To me, dogs are the greatest pals we can ask for. One of the greatest feelings in the world was coming home from a trip, pulling up to the front door in my Uber and seeing my dog, Kona, through the window, wagging her tail like crazy as I walked up to the house and stepped inside.

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It makes you feel so good, so loved by this animal in front of you that your heart can practically burst from the joy of it all. It’s just what dogs do.

The American Kennel Club outlines several science-based benefits of dogs:

  • Dogs reduce feelings of loneliness.
  • Research shows the bond between humans and dogs reduces stress and lowers blood pressure.
  • 10 minutes of petting your dog can reduce cortisol, a major stress hormone.
  • Dogs help us psychologically cope with crises – PTSD in military veterans has been shown to improve when they get a service dog.
  • Dogs encourage us to move – dog owners are 4x more likely to meet daily physical guidelines than non-dog owners.
  • Dogs can improve your photography skills – in a study by Rover, 65% of dog owners said they took more photos of their dog than their significant other!
  • Dogs help us connect – an estimated 40% of dog owners report having an easier time making friends when out with their dog.
  • Dogs make us happier – staring into your dog’s eyes raises your level of oxytocin, the “love hormone.”

And I truly loved my Kona. When I was at Intero she came to work with me every single day; she never missed a day. We’d go to Starbucks together; she’d sit under my desk during meetings when I was working from home. She was just there, a constant, loyal source of unconditional companionship and support.

So, what’s the message? I believe we are connected to our dogs in ways perhaps even science has yet to understand. About a month ago, when Kona started really deteriorating, I was feeling dizzy and off, something just wasn’t right. Of course it wasn’t. Kona was part of me and if she was feeling sick, I was too. When I left for Hawaii, a sense of foreboding followed, like stepping on that plane I knew that this was the beginning of the end.

I moved my return flight up – Kona was in bad condition – and she waited for me to get home, just like she always did on every trip I took before. That sweet, adorable pal of mine – a mainstay at Intero, a regular at Starbucks, a curled-up sleeper beneath my desk – waited until I got home to say her final goodbye. And when I did say goodbye to my sweet Kona, I wasn’t just saying goodbye to my dog, I was saying goodbye to my best friend.

P.S. This story has a silver – or golden – lining. I called the place where I originally got Kona to let them know how great of a dog she was and offhandedly during our conversation happened to ask, “Do you by any chance have an F1 Half-Golden, Half-Miniature Poodle puppy?” And the breeder pauses then says, “You know, as a matter of fact we have a whole litter of puppies right now!” And because I knew somehow this news was Kona smiling down on me from the great dog park in the sky, I said, “Can you just check if they might be related to Kona?” And guess what? The breeder replied: “They are. The parents of Kona were Toby and Goldy and the father of the litter is Cody, the grandson of Toby.” Right then and there I decided I’m going to get one of the girl puppies … and I was thinking of naming her Kona. What do you think I should name her?

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.

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!

Thoughts on Leadership: Leading through Change

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me at home, starting Monday with my typical Monday morning WIG calls. On Tuesday, I participated in the Berkshire Hathaway Energy call then traveled to Virginia. On Wednesday, I spent the day with the team at Long & Foster, including filming “The CEO Is In The House” with Long & Foster President and CEO Jeff Detwiler and Johnnie Johnson, former All-Pro defensive back for the Los Angeles Rams, president/CEO of World Class Coaches and author of “From Athletics to Engineering: 8 Ways to Support Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for All.” Now I’m traveling home, writing this post to you.

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Thoughts on Leadership: The Long-term Investment of a Team

By Gino Blefari:

This week my travels find me at home, starting Tuesday (after the July 4th holiday on Monday) with early Berkshire Hathaway Energy calls, WIG calls and then a flight to Orange County. Yesterday, I participated in a strategy meeting with Chris Kelly, president and chief executive officer of Ebby Halliday Companies about our upcoming Stronger Together event happening this August in San Diego and attended various meetings with our Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices team. Today, as I travel back to Northern California, I look out my airplane window and reflect on the ideas Chris and I shared.

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