Thoughts on Leadership: In Remembrance of Bruce Mulhearn

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in Southern California, meeting with colleagues, brokerage leaders and superstar sales professionals. But more about that next week. This week, I want to focus solely on one leader … one extraordinary leader … who the world lost and subsequently celebrated this past Saturday in Long Beach, California.

I was fortunate enough to speak at the Celebration of Life for Bruce Mulhearn, president and broker/owner of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties, who passed away Dec. 26 at the age of 80. He was a true legend of leadership, followed by a legion of admiring fans. More than 1,000 people attended his Celebration of Life, punctuated by the sound of bagpipes to signify his English heritage—he was born ina coal mining and ship-building town on the border of Scotland—and an American flag that waved proudly in recognition of his time served in the United States Army. (It’s almost poetic that his humble beginnings were in a coal town. Coal, when put under enormouspressure, turns to diamond, a geological trajectory that closely reflects the life of Bruce.)

Surprisingly, Bruce got his start in real estate in New Zealand, where he purchased beachfront property in Toa Loa, which he would coincidentally sell for $1,500 after he decided to move to the United States. This was when the transformative epiphany happened. After delighting in the profit from the land, he thought, “If I did this by accident … what could I do on purpose in California?”

 

Immediately, the transaction sparked a life-long passion for real estate that would eventually lead Bruce to Jan. 1, 1967, when Bruce Mulhearn Inc., Realtors opened for business. The brokerage quickly expanded to become one of the fastest-growing real estate companies in California.

On Saturday, his widespread success and admiration was evident. It was astounding to witness the depth of respect and love that poured out for Bruce from all corners of our country and industry. Words like these were used to describe him: “there will never be another like him,” or “his range of talents was immense,” or “he brought a level of sophistication and humanity to our industry.”

Let me add the words that Mike Ferry, one of the real estate industry’s premier coaches, trainers and my own mentor, recently relayed to me about Bruce: “I met Bruce in the early 1970s while working with my broker Pat McVay,” he said. “After meeting Bruce with Pat, Pat said to me, ‘You’ve just met one of the smartest and best real estate people you will ever meet!’ And that’s been proven for years.”

You’ve heard the phrase one in a million and ironically, there are approximately 1 million REALTORS® working today and Bruce was one in a million. To prove it, we have our own special story and it begins in 2013.

It was May of that year, just as the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices brand was readying to launch. The top 50 Prudential Real Estate franchisees gathered in Jackson Hole, Wyoming for the Gibraltar Circle Conference. Prudential had just sold the Prudential Real Estate network to Brookfield then Brookfield sold a majority interest in the network to HomeServices of America, Inc.

The latter transaction created the “Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices” brand, and the Jackson Hole gathering was an opportunity to sign Prudential Real Estate franchisees to this brand-new brokerage network.

Frustration, concern and unease tainted the mountain air and with each brokerage leader given the choice of joining Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, no one had yet committed. Everything was on the line, nothing was certain and that’s exactly when Bruce asked for the microphone.

(A note about Bruce Mulhearn, as explained by the moving eulogies at his Celebration of Life: He was an adventure seeker and daredevil. A lover of skiing, who raced down to the bottom of a soaring mountain only to climb back up to the top and do it all over again. He thrived on challenges—like navigating his company through five economic downturns—both personally and professionally. His daughter Elaine told a moving story about her teenage years, when her father would wake her up at the crack of dawn to run along the beach. One morning, the beach was a mess; record-high winds and waves had hit the shores. Still, Bruce woke her up to run, and they jogged around the debris and on top of giant, fallen pylons. “He taught me that there will be horrendous hurricanes in your life and you will have to run through them,” she said on Saturday. “The values of perseverance, grit and self-discipline were taught [to] me by my father because he lived it.”)

 

In Jackson Hole, Bruce’s fighting spirit was on full display. He calmly asked the audience—many of whom were leaders at some of the most prestigious brokerages in America—to open their eyes to the possibility of adding the name “Berkshire Hathaway” to theirs. The combination would be magic, Bruce explained. He said the brand equity and reputational strength of Berkshire Hathaway would be important for the new brand moving forward. And Bruce was absolutely right. It was.

Bruce said the association with HomeServices of America and Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. would be worth its weight in gold. And Bruce was right. It was.

He said the brand would change the face of residential real estate in America. And again, he was right. It did and continues to do so every day.

The meetings in Jackson Hole seemed to turn on Bruce’s voice of reason. Brokers looked deeper into the brand as well as their minds and hearts. The first Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices franchisee was signed in Jackson Hole and many, many commitments came in rapid succession, including one from Bruce and his team at what would soon become Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties.

Now, exactly five years and one month after Bruce launched Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties, our brokerage network has amassed nearly 300 companies, 50,000 agents, and more than 1,400 offices across the United States and Berlin, London and Milan.

So, what’s the message? Bruce’s legacy will forever be tied to the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices narrative. There are a lot of good people in our industry, a few great ones, and then there was Bruce Mulhearn. I speak on behalf of our entire organization when I say thank you, Bruce. We will always respect you as an inspiring leader, revere you as an incredible real estate visionary, and miss and love you as a great, unforgettable friend.

Thoughts on Leadership: Visualizing And Realizing Your Goals

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in Scottsdale, AZ for the 2019 Executive Leadership Conference, hosted by Berkshire Hathaway Energy. I’m excited to spend time among such visionary business leaders, who not only set goals but also achieve—and surpass—them.

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Thoughts on Leadership: Planning for Success

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels took me to not only three stops, not only three companies but also three countries: London for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Kay & Co; Berlin to spend time with the team at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Rubina Real Estate; and finally, back to the U.S. in Las Vegas, for a meeting with Corporate Magic to finalize the creative planning for Sales Convention 2019.

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Thoughts on Leadership: Clear Your Mind

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels unexpectedly find me working from home, and not, as originally planned, meeting with our network members in Miami for the 2017 Summit Conference. The event was canceled due to Hurricane Irma and its impending destruction and my thoughts are with those in Florida currently dealing with the terrible aftermath of the storm. On behalf of our entire organization, our prayers go out to all of you.

The unanticipated change in schedule did afford me days to fall back into my usual routine, which starts with a 5 a.m. visit to Starbucks, my dog Kona by my feet, writing in my journal and doing my meditation and prayers.

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Thoughts on Leadership: Getting Back to Basics

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me first in Irvine at the HSF Affiliates headquarters with a series of meetings and one very special meeting with Gary Vaynerchuk.

With Gary Vaynerchuk, bestselling author, speaker and internet personality, also CEO of VaynerMedia, and Chris Stuart, SVP of Business Development and Operations for HSF Affiliates.

Then it was on to Las Vegas for Mike Ferry’s 2017 Superstar Retreat, a four-day intensive from one of our industry’s finest leaders all about strengthening your mindset, building your skills, increasing your productivity and catapulting profits to the highest level possible—in other words, the basics.

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Thursday Thoughts on Leadership: Recharge

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in Hawaii, meeting with the team at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Hawai‘i Realty and spending time with good friends and family. My trip to the Aloha State reminds me of a recent video I shot all about the power of stepping away from the computer, the cell phone, the office and recharging to regain the strength necessary to effectively lead. Many leaders overlook the worthiness in time off—it’s just work, work, work—but the act of regularly recharging is not only instrumental to better leadership … it’s absolutely necessary! Watch this video to learn more …

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Thoughts on Leadership: Powerful Presentations

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me in Santa Barbara, CA for the 2017 Berkshire Elite Circle Conference, honoring the Top 50 brokerages in the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices network. It was an experience to be remembered, a celebration of some of our network’s finest leaders and a chance to gather actionable insights from the wisdom of not only these wise real estate innovators but also our keynote speakers, and my good friends, Tom McCarthy and Carmine Gallo. Both Tom and Carmine presented on the topic of … presenting, and delivered straightforward, sharp advice related to the subject.

I believe presenting is such a large part of any business—not just in real estate with listing presentations but for anyone involved in any business. You must always present your story, your product and your brand to others and do so in a way that captures their attention. Given the significance of presentations, I want to share some of my favorite takeaways from everything Carmine and Tom said.

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Thoughts on Leadership: Be Relentless

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me first in Northern California for a lunch with best-selling author and communications guru, Carmine Gallo, then in Southern California—specifically in the City of Industry, CA—for Relentless. The annual event, through interactive educational sessions and keynotes, details ways attendees can navigate daily obstacles while improving their lives both personally and professionally. As always, it was hosted by my friend Danny Morel, also broker/owner at Intero Real Estate Services of Southern California and a real estate coach. I’ve known Danny for almost 20 years, even well before his Intero days and then when he came to own an Intero real estate franchise. Now, he’s crushing it in his brokerage’s market of Rancho Cucamonga, CA, on social media, and through the inspiration he imparts to tens of thousands of aspiring real estate agents nationwide.

Relentless is all about that passion Danny so clearly possesses, and it’s a passion not only to make his own wins a reality but also to help others accomplish their goals, too. I couldn’t have been more honored to join Danny onstage to talk about such an important topic.

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Thoughts on Leadership: REALTORS® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me first in Atlanta for the Relocation Directors Council Spring Meeting then off to our nation’s capital for the REALTORS® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo (follow the conversation on Twitter at #NARLegislative) held annually in Washington, D.C. to provide an opportunity for NAR members to take an active role in advancing the real estate industry, public policy and the association at large.

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Thoughts on Leadership: Takeaways from the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in Irvine, CA for meetings with our HSF Affiliates teams and employees. Unfortunately, an injury kept me sidelined from Omaha, NE and the 2017 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting over the weekend but I followed along with the progress and commentary that came out of the event, which provided enlightening insights into the mind and mastery of the Oracle of Omaha, Mr. Warren Buffett.

I’ve spoken before about the serendipitous connection I feel with Mr. Buffett—I was born in a town where everything was called “Berkshire,” my mom was born just 12 days apart from the famous investor and like Mr. Buffett, she used to sing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” to her kids—and so it should come as no surprise that I research and review his philosophies on leadership, life and business quite closely. Here are some major takeaways gleaned from what he revealed at Saturday’s meeting:

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