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Thoughts on Leadership is a weekly blog published by GINO BLEFARI CEO of HSF Affiliates LLC. You also can follow Gino on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter

#182 Thoughts on Leadership: Reflecting on Diversity and NAGLREP

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in Northern California taking conference calls and meetings, catching up on work and writing more than 70 handwritten notes. (You can see the evidence of that endeavor here.) The week kicked off, however, in Palm Springs at the National Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals (NAGLREP) 2018 convention, which was a veritable hot spring of inspiration in the California desert.

Today is also a special day to be writing this post because it is both National Coming Out Day and International Day of the Girl, two momentous occasions that are not only important but also fundamental to the fabric of a truly diverse industry and society.

Michelle Obama perhaps said it best this morning on TODAY: “The stats show when you educate a girl, you educate a family, a community, a country.” It is so essential for us to educate women from a young age and provide them with the necessary tools, training and wisdom to succeed and prosper. As a father of two girls, I know first-hand what it’s like to raise passionate, powerful women and when you provide them with the knowledge necessary to accomplish their goals, you’re empowering them to conquer the world. An educated woman is a force unstoppable.

At the NAGLREP conference, the theme was very much about how we as leaders can, through education and advocacy, advance the idea of homeownership and inclusion for all. The conference focused on the ways in which the LGBTQ community plays an integral part of our nation’s culture and prosperity, and how we can better serve this community in their pursuit of a home.

Highlights from the event, which was expertly moderated by comedian Alec Mapa, included: Jeff Berger, founder and CEO of NAGLREP, who talked about how the LGBTQ community is a driving force in the economy. He emphasized how strong and loyal the community is and what an integral part it plays to the vitality and prosperity of real estate. He shared some impressive stats with the crowd, which can also be found on the NAGLREP website. NAGLREP estimates that 3,000 transactions occurred in 2018 through naglrep.com. He also noted that the NAGLREP members earned $765 million in estimated gross sales for 2018 and $46 million in gross agent commissions in 2018.

Additionally, Freddie Mac Director of HR Innovation Angie Wilen shared Freddie Mac’s groundbreaking study, “LGBT & Housing Trends,” which was an eye-opening look at the effect of the LGBTQ community on housing and its future.

I was also honored to speak during the convention on time management and how to increase productivity and build your business by properly managing your time.

Another highlight of the conference was when four network sales professionals were named to the real estate industry’s first recognition of top producing LGBT and allied agents and teams. Top honorees included: Avi Dan-Goor, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Nevada Properties; Chris McNelis, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices McNelis Group Properties; Robert Dawson, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Dawson, Ford & Garbee & Co. Realtors; and Greg Renfrow, Berkshire Hathaway Taliesyn Realty.

And congratulations must be given to Wayne Woodyard, Orange County vice president and regional manager at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties, who was recognized for his work and contributions to the LGBT community and received NAGLREP’s prestigious Pinnacle Award.

So, what’s the message? All in all, it was an incredible, vibrant conference filled with information and takeaways to help our network embrace the kind of diversity and inclusion that will allow us to better serve an ever-more diverse world. Teresa Palacios Smith, HSF Affiliates vice president of diversity, inclusion and multicultural strategies said it best when she told me, “At NAGLREP you’re really able to gain insight, network and get to know the members, and that’s why attending the conference is such an important way to advance our diversity and inclusion initiatives. The LGBTQ community is absolutely vital to the goal of embracing fair housing and equality for all.” She also added that this very post is being published at an opportune time—on National Coming Out Day and International Day of the Girl. “Education is critical to the growth of our families,” Teresa said to me. “And when we educate our daughters, we can change the world.”

October 12, 2018


By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me first in Vancouver, BC for the 2018 Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Summit Conference and today in Palm Springs, CA for The National Association of Gay & Lesbian Real Estate Professionals 2018 convention. But more about that great experience in next week’s post …

Today, I want to share some highlights from our Summit Conference, a gathering of top-producing sales professionals in the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices network and a chance to glean inspiration from those who never rest on the laurels of their success. Summit Conference attendees are constantly seeking to become even better than they already are. They focus on self-improvement and they focus with sharp, thoughtful intention on the future. As Tony Robbins says, “Where focus goes, energy flows.”

As it does each year, Summit Conference 2018 featured some incredible speakers, including our own Chris Stuart, COO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, who delivered a powerful presentation that included brand and technology updates, and Wendy Durand, vice president of global marketing for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, who moderated the conference general sessions with expert skill. I was honored to talk to the crowd about disruption, the current state of our industry and where I believe real estate is going.

We were fortunate to have Dr. Daniel Amen speak at Summit Conference. Dr. Amen is a physician and 10-time New York Times bestselling author who gave a fascinating keynote about the brain and how we can change the way we think to ultimately change our lives. Dr. Amen outlined his BRIGHT MINDS approach to enhance memory, reverse cognitive decline and remember what matters most to you.

Additionally, Mae Cheng, head of Dow Jones Media Group’s Luxury Network (also publisher/editor-in-chief for Mansion Global) moderated a fantastic panel, “Building Relationships with Developers.” Panelists were all experts in the new development arena and included: Etsuko Fields, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Hawai’i Properties; Steve Chin, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Utah Properties; Lori Lane, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Georgia Properties; Jonathan Oleinick of Evolution Ventures, LLC; and Dennis Walsh, Certified New Homes Specialist.

Debbie de Grote, owner and founder of Excelleum Coaching & Consulting, also shared her knowledge with the crowd, as did Phil Hansen, a famed artist embracing new ways to create. Hansen has been featured many times on the TED Talks stage and spoke powerfully about creativity and perceived limitations. Phil coined the term “Embrace the Shake” as part of his personal story of transformation. Phil developed an unruly tremor in his hand that prevented him from creating the pointillist drawings he loved. He went to a neurologist and discovered he had permanent nerve damage. Phil was devastated he could no longer bring to life with his hand the art he imagined in his head. Still, unable to stay away from art, he began experimenting with his limitations, and produced a series of creative experiments with different canvases and techniques that would completely change his artistic horizons. Today, “Embrace the Shake” is a motto for many businesses to approach limitations in a whole new way.

Finally, Mike Lipkin, a longtime advertising executive and author, discussed radical change, disruption and a topic close to home for me – leadership.

Speaking of “Close to Home,” the phrase is also the title of my soon-to-be released podcast, which features candid conversations with inspiring leaders from all industries and backgrounds. At Summit Conference, we recorded four podcast sessions with Lori Lane, senior vice president of the New Homes Division, City Haus and Luxury Real Estate at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Georgia Properties; Mike McCann of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach, REALTORS® The Mike McCann Team, (ranked #1 team in the network in units and GCI for 2017); and Jeff Cohn of Omaha’s Elite Real Estate Group (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Ambassador Real Estate). Jeff’s team was ranked #2 in the network for units in 2017. His team was also ranked #1 for units in the Midwest region last year. We also recorded a session with Mike the keynote speaker on motivation and persuasion. Stay tuned for the release of those sessions, coming soon!

My overall takeaway from the speeches, presentations and conversations I had with top producers for my podcast was this: Never underestimate the value of exchanging ideas with those who are smart, driven and undeniably successful at what they do. Learning is a constant continuum, not a short trip with a start and end date; keep opening your mind to new ideas, new knowledge and new experiences. It’s the only way you’ll really grow.

So, what’s the message? Remember that phrase I like to say, “Once you think you know it all your slide to mediocrity has already begun.” This week, take it to heart. Chat with someone in your office who is a clear and focused leader. Ask a local business expert to share coffee and ideas with you. Carve out time to attend a lecture given by someone who is at the top of their field. Sign up for Sales Convention 2019 in Las Vegas, where you’ll encounter individuals who will motivate you to enhance your skills and industry expertise. When you surround yourself with leaders who are successful and in the business of constant improvement, I promise you’ll end up in an even better place than you found yourself in today.

October 10, 2018

#180 Thoughts on Leadership: Five Stars Video #4

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me first in New Jersey with Chris Stuart, COO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, for a very special companywide event, “The Power of the Brand,” hosted Sept. 21 by Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New Jersey Properties. The event included a company update from Bill Keleher, chairman and CEO of New Jersey Properties, and guest speakers, including CEO of Prosperity Home Mortgage, Tim Wilson.

From New Jersey it was off to Northern California, to recharge and prepare for the upcoming Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Summit Conference in Vancouver, BC.

For this week’s Thoughts on Leadership video—the last in our four-part series—we’ll go over my favorite tips and takeaways from Carmine Gallo’s book, Five Stars: The Communication Secrets to Get from Good to Great.

So, what’s the message? Remember: Great communicators are made, not born, so even if you’re not a five stars communicator now, with a little practice and review of the tips in this video series, you’ll become an excellent .

September 28, 2018


By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me first in New Jersey for the Mavericks Fall 2018 Meeting held at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New Jersey Properties. The Mavericks is a small think-tank group of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices CEOs who meet to exchange ideas, provide peer review and help members grow their businesses. Each meeting is hosted by a different company and each meeting always proves even more productive than the last. Every time I sit down with this group of innovative leaders, I always walk away with so many actionable ideas to help our affiliates grow, improve and succeed that can be shared with the entire network.

After Mavericks, I traveled to Little Falls, NJ for a meeting with Bob and Lorraine Van Der Wende, brokers at Century 21 Van Der Wende, which recently joined our networking operating as Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Van Der Wende Properties. The brokerage was founded by the two real estate veterans in 1980 and has since grown to be a local powerhouse, leading the Passaic Valley in home sales volume for the last 27 years, according to Garden State MLS data.

So, what’s the message? It’s fitting that I was in New Jersey this week for Mavericks and a celebration of our new brokerage because both events really told incredible stories about leadership, business and achieving your goals. In the third part of our Five Stars video series, we’ll delve deeper into the structure of a great story and what makes it powerful, engaging and something listeners will never forget.

September 21, 2018


By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me in Boston for the exciting announcement that Century 21 Commonwealth will join the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices network Nov. 1, operating as Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Commonwealth Real Estate. While in Boston, I was able to spend time with the Commonwealth leadership team – George Patsio, founding partner of the brokerage; Nick Patsio, founding partner of the brokerage; and Founding Partner Patrick Fortin – as well as the passionate and energetic future network agents. The brokerage is a market leader in greater Boston with more than 500 sales professionals, 22 offices and a winning reputation for client service, market expertise and operational excellence. Commonwealth is currently the No. 1 Century 21 brokerage in New England and No. 9 worldwide. It’s an honor to have them join our brokerage network.

I also met in Boston with members of the VaynerTalent team, who were busy creating content you’ll soon see on social media. It’s fitting that this week kicks off an entire month of Thoughts on Leadership videos all about bestselling author Carmine Gallo’s new book, Five Stars: The Communication Secrets to Get from Good to Great, because both the Commonwealth team and the VaynerTalent team (led by Gary Vaynerchuk) have achieved so much success because they’re simply the best at what they do and even better at communicating their skills and expertise to others. I hope you enjoy this first video in a four-part video series highlighting my favorite takeaways from Carmine’s excellent book!

September 07, 2018

#177 Thoughts on Leadership: Explosion 2018

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels started in Minneapolis, where I had a board meeting with our HomeServices of America, Inc. leaders and from there it was off to Omaha—home of our own Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway Inc.—for a great conference called Explosion 2018, held at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Ambassador Real Estate and hosted by the brokerage’s CEO Vince Leisey and his team.

With members of the National REthink Council at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Ambassador Real Estate's Explosion 2018.

Vince’s company is the ideal place to hold an event all about exploding business to the next level of success; he’s a leader singularly focused on two key concepts: coaching and culture. For Vince, (and I agree) a strong emphasis on both will create an incredible foundation for recruiting, retention, profitability and sustainable growth. He’s set on building a culture that inspires and pushes for personal development and it’s working. His company was recently recognized as having one of The World’s Greatest Cultures and was honored on the popular television series World’s Greatest.

He also believes in creating an office environment that encourages individuality—and if you’ve ever been to his mega office in Omaha, a sleek, modern and collaborative space, you’ll know this objective is working. Vince provides his agents with built-in support and advanced training, so they’re constantly learning, constantly growing and constantly evolving with ever-changing business models, industry trends and consumer demands.

Speaking of training, Explosion 2018 kicked off Monday with an office tour and really began Tuesday morning with opening remarks from Vince and breakout sessions focused on key issues affecting real estate. Top-producing agents Adam Briley (Ambassador Real Estate) and Jeff Cohn (Ambassador Real Estate) led a session on how to build a team; Vince and Mary Lee Blaylock, president and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties, led a session on how to build a great culture for your company and Excelleum Coaching and Consulting’s Debbie De Grote and Victor Vaca led a session on how to triple your database and referrals. From team-building to culture-building to client-building, all major topics were covered to ensure attendees gained knowledge to take back to their businesses. The morning was rounded out with a panel discussion moderated by Debbie and Vince, which included top-producing agents—Tim Anders of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Michigan Real Estate; Tasha Moss of Ambassador Real Estate; Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Georgia Properties’ Tonya Jones and Greg Miller of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Michigan Real Estate—explaining their best practices and advice.

In the early afternoon, attendees could choose between three breakout sessions: lead generation, moderated by HSF Affiliates Director of Global Network Training Bob Watson; how to work with luxury buyers, featuring some of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices’ best and brightest sales professionals working in high-end markets and with high-end clients (Deb Cizek of Ambassador Real Estate, Shauna Covington of California Properties, Cindy Forehead of Ambassador Real Estate and California Properties’ Kat Hitchcock, who also serves on the national REthink Council; and a session about the importance of mental health led by Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Utah Properties’ Jake Breen, a National REthink Council broker advisor. Additional topics covered that day included: how to get listings in a low inventory market, how to use video, how to prospect, how to increase your average sales price, Facebook advertising and how to use ads to capture leads, the importance of client appreciation and managing sales expectations.

With Ryan Clark, manager at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Blake, REALTORS®; Brian McKenna, branch manager at Blake, REALTORS®; and Allan Dalton (“Mr. Say”), HSF Affiliates senior vice president of research and development at Explosion 2018.

Wednesday was another information-packed day at the conference and I was honored to present with HSF Affiliates SVP of Research and Development Allan Dalton. In our discussion, Allan was Mr. Say and I was Mr. Do. Allan treated the crowd to the importance of what you say, and I talked about the importance of what you do.

Our presentation was followed by several breakout sessions and the event closed out with the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices National REthink Council members presenting on best practices. Tiffany Curry (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Anderson Properties); Andy Blake (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Kansas City Realty); Kyle Hannegan (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Select Properties); and Rachel Skradski (Ambassador Real Estate) were featured on the panel. The motivated and hard-working agents shared their very best advice for how they’ve been able to achieve such high levels of production (and spoiler alert: teams and team-building weighed heavily into that conversation). And I have to say, kudos to all of them for serving the council and inspiring the network.

So, what’s the message? Explosion 2018 solidified the belief that with proper coaching and a strong culture, a company can thrive. Proper coaching means having an open mind to constantly learn something new—and instill it into your everyday habits and business practices. (It was also an incredibly charitable endeavor, raising $5,500 for the Sunshine Kids.) Culture means creating an environment marked by optimism, collaboration and an inherent undercurrent of personal development. Always strive to be better. Never settle or mire in complacency. Remember what I say: Once you think you know it all, your slide to mediocrity has already begun. Explosion 2018 proved that while we certainly don’t know it all, together we can learn, grow and achieve to explode our business and enhance our lives.

August 31, 2018


By Gino Blefari

This week my travels first found me in Northern California, specifically in Cupertino having my Saturday morning breakfast with my good friend Johnnie Johnson (former All-Pro defensive back for the Los Angeles Rams) and we were joined by another good friend of ours, NFL Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott. (We were tackling life … and our hearty breakfasts … and thankfully, nobody tackled me.) Together, we reminisced about our beloved friend Dwight Clark, who is deeply missed by us all.

Next it was off to Southern California to our HSF Affiliates headquarters office for meetings with prospective franchisees, a leadership meeting and Town Hall with the team. During the Town Hall, I delivered a presentation based on Tom Corley’s book, Rich Habits: The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals. Corley spent years studying the difference between the habits of the rich and the poor. On the rich side, he analyzed the habits of those with annual gross income north of $160,000 and net liquid assets of $3.2 million or more.

Today for our weekly blog post, I’d like to share 16 habits gleaned from this wealthy population, and, as the best-selling author says, they will help you reach and maintain your wealth potential:

  1. Live within your means. Wealthy people don’t overspend and always save. On average, they save 20% of their net income and live on the remaining 80%.
  2. Don’t gamble. Wealthy people don’t rely on random luck for success like playing the lottery or visiting a casino. “[Rich people] create their own luck,” Corley says.
  3. Read every day. Reading, as I say, allows you to see old things in new ways. Increasing your knowledge will make you more valuable in business and life. Among the wealthy people Corley studied, 88% read more than 30 minutes or more each day. And famously, Warren Buffett has been quoted as saying he reads about 200 books per year. If your busy schedule doesn’t allow for reading, listen to audio books while commuting or in between meetings. There’s always time to learn … if you commit to it!
  4. Spend less time watching TV and surfing the web. Corley says two-thirds of wealthy people surveyed watch less than an hour of TV a day and 63% spend less than an hour a day on the internet unless it’s job related.
  5. Control your emotions. Remember, not every emotion needs to be expressed. Sometimes, when you speak whatever is on your mind, you risk hurting others’ feelings and tarnishing important connections. A full 94% of wealthy people filter their emotions, says Corley. One of the most important emotions to control—and one that can have the most negative impact on your leadership ability—is fear. Overcome fear and do not allow it to hold you back!
  6. Network and volunteer regularly. Networking and volunteering will allow you to build invaluable relationships, strengthened through the altruism and feel-good vibes of giving back to others. Almost three-quarters of wealthy people network and volunteer at least five hours a month. And if you’re looking for a charity to support, the Sunshine Kids is an amazing one!
  7. Go above and beyond in work and business. Wealthy individuals, as Corley describes, “make themselves invaluable to their employers or customers.�� They never avoid a task because it's simply not in their job description. Write articles for your business, speak at industry events … do more than what you think is in your job description, never less.
  8. Set goals, not wishes. Corley says 70% of wealthy people pursue at least one major goal or WIG. Remember, you can’t control the outcome of a wish but you can execute on and accomplish a goal.
  9. Avoid procrastination. As Yoda said, “Do or do not. There is no try.”
  10. Talk less and listen more. (In the spirit of this habit, I’ll just go on to the next one …)
  11. Avoid toxic people. We are as successful as those we surround ourselves with. Of wealthy, successful people Corley studied, 86% associate with other successful people.
  12. Don’t give up. Corley writes, “Those who are successful in life have three things in common: focus, persistence and patience. They simply do not quit chasing their big goals.”
  13. Set aside the self-limiting beliefs holding you back. A self-limiting belief like “I’m not smart enough” or “I’m not good enough” will restrain you from accomplishing your goals and finding success. Each morning as part of your daily routine, read positive affirmations to create a positive mindset.
  14. Get a mentor. Here’s an astounding statistic: Among the wealthy Corley studied, 93% had a mentor. Find someone who is going to regularly and actively participate in your growth and most importantly, will not put up with your excuses for why something wasn’t done. As I’ve written before, Mike Ferry was a mentor of mine who would not let me get complacent. Mike simply didn’t stand for it.
  15. Eliminate “bad luck” from your vocabulary. Sometimes when people struggle financially, they credit bad luck for their troubles. As Corley writes, bad habits repeated again and again “are like snowflakes on a mountainside. In time, these snowflakes build up until the inevitable avalanche.”
  16. Know your main purpose. When you love what you do, it doesn’t seem like work. (I say I love what I do largely because of who I get to do it with but it’s also because I genuinely believe my work is also my passion – helping people achieve their goals faster than they would in my absence.) If you love what you do and it’s your life’s main purpose, you’ll happily devote more time to it and in turn, accomplish, earn more and feel more fulfilled.

So, what’s the message? Wealth doesn’t happen by accident. Often, it’s the result of positive, sustainable habits repeated over time that when aggregated together, form the foundation for a healthy, wealthy and most importantly, happy life.

August 24, 2018


By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me first in Pittsburgh at the PPG Paints Arena, celebrating the acquisition of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices The Preferred Realty by Northwood Realty Services. Effective now, the merged company will operate as Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices The Preferred Realty and Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Northwood Realty Services.

When the official celebration of two real estate giants coming together began, the energy in the arena—also home to the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins—was infectious. You couldn’t help but feel inspired to be among hundreds of passionate, excited Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices network agents. The crowd was addressed that evening by Ron Croushore, previous CEO and owner of The Preferred Realty, who remains active in the company as the board’s vice chair, followed by James Saxon, co-president and COO, then me, and finally, Tom Hosack, co-president and CEO of the newly merged brokerage.

The union creates a brokerage superpower of more than 1,800 agents and 50 offices serving 22 counties in Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio. The Preferred Realty and its family of companies are now the No. 1 residential real estate brokerage in greater Pittsburgh for sales volume, units and listings based on West-Penn MLS data. It is the No. 20 company across the entire industry for units based on 2017 REALTrends data; and No. 10 in the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices network for gross commission income.

From Pittsburgh it was off to Michigan for the Managers Retreat with managers and leadership from Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Michigan Real Estate, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Northern Indiana Real Estate and Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Tomie Raines REALTORS®. I was joined at the event by brokerage leaders Steve Fase, broker/owner and CEO of Michigan Real Estate; Steve Fase II, regional manager of the Eastern Michigan region at Michigan Real Estate; Craig West, co-owner/CEO of Indiana Realty; Andrew Braun, co-owner and CFO of Indiana Realty to deliver two days of presentations to managers who truly care.

With Amy Mocas, vice president of sales at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Indiana Realty and Brandy Phillips, marketing coordinator at Indiana Realty.

If you’ll stick with me, I’d like to highlight a few sessions from the retreat because the flow of the meeting closely mirrored how any well-organized, effective and value-add-focused manager conference should be structured …

First, the retreat kicked off with a small leadership breakfast for the regional managers and executives. After breakfast, we all participated in two, one and one-half hour sessions. In the first 90-minute session, I spoke about my own career story, the West Coast Offense for real estate, which includes the 4DX system all managers at the retreat now follow, and leadership best practices as well as the need to develop a Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices business coaching strategy that includes a 4DX system, Monday WIG call, Wednesday night mastermind, Friday wrap up call (wins for the week/lessons learned), a contest (ongoing/year-round), accountability partners, top 7, monthly commitments—“What am I doing to improve so I’m better this week than I was last week?”—and a book club.

Second, the next session focused on recruiting. We spoke about having an awesome onboarding process and how to properly welcome new agents, then launched into script practice with NLP scripts and role-playing. Throughout the exercises, we discussed specific messages you can convey to prospective agents that will help motivate and inspire them to join your team.

The morning sessions were followed by a 60-minute afternoon session that was conducted in person and via phone with me, Chris Stuart, COO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, and Allan Dalton, SVP of Research and Development at HSF Affiliates. We conducted a thorough Q&A with attendees.

At the Manager Retreat with Steve Fase II, regional manager of the Eastern Michigan region at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Michigan Real Estate; Craig West, co-owner/CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Indiana Realty; and Steve Fase, broker/owner and CEO of Michigan Real Estate.

Today, I had breakfast with the management team and spoke about the measurements that can be used to gauge success. It’s important for managers to have systems in place. For instance, I recommend that managers rate their performance against a fixed performance standard based on statistical achievements. I also talked about office efficiencies and how to visually measure office performance, which simplifies the planning and goal-setting process. Additionally, I provided the managers with my daily tracking sheet—as I say, “you can’t manage what you can’t measure”—that measures important milestones like new agents hired, listings taken, recruiting calls, weekend open house visits, handwritten notes, outgoing referrals and other key areas that contribute to the healthy production of an office.

When asked about his overall thoughts on the retreat, Steve Fase said, “We so appreciate the time and energy that Gino gave the last day and a half and his visit we believe will set us on a continuous path to better management.” He also added, in a humbling comparison, the experience reminded him of that famous 49ers play by my late pal, Dwight Clark. “Yesterday after the breakout session, instead of people with their hands folded, unhappy, I saw people being so engaged and excited. If I had a picture of Gino to describe the scene, he’d have his arms outstretched at the back of the end zone and I’d say Gino made the catch as far as our company is concerned. The event was just that good.”

So, what’s the message? It’s clear and simple: What you don’t know in the real estate business will hurt you. What you don’t measure in real estate doesn’t get done.

August 20, 2018

#174 Thoughts on Leadership: Conferences Are Key

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me finishing up an eight-day road trip, today spending time at our HSF Affiliates headquarters in Irvine, CA to work on exciting projects, meet with our staff and make sure our core company objectives—our WIGS—are being met.

During my travels, I had the opportunity to attend two great conferences: Brian Buffini’s MasterMind Summit at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront and Tom Ferry’s Success Summit in Anaheim, CA.

It was interesting to go from one conference to the next, observing the difference in business approaches of Tom and Brian (both philosophies for growth are, I should add, very important). Brian is focused on referral business and solutions that generate a steady stream of referred leads. Tom spoke a lot about leveraging social media to find prospective clients and achieve new levels of success.

At Brian’s MasterMind Summit, I was also treated to a bevy of inspirational speakers. They included:

John Ondrasik, better known by his stage name, Five for Fighting, a singer/songwriter and record producer behind such Top 40 hits as “Superman (It’s Not Easy),” “100 Years” and “The Riddle.” He offered insights on storytelling and innovation to entertain and connect.

Jon Gordon, the best-selling author of The Energy Bus, The Carpenter and Training Camp. He’s an expert on leadership and how to build an award-winning team.

Walter Bond, a business coach and former NBA player. He believes that to reach peak performance and close the gap between our current life and the dreams we want to fulfill, we must undergo a transformation. We must think, execute and transform our habits in order to win.

Mark Victor Hansen, the author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. His focus is on helping people from all walks of life reshape their vision of what is possible. Nothing is out of reach; no goal is unattainable. Challenges will always exist but as you take smalls steps toward what you want, you’ll gain the self-confidence necessary to forge onward.

I left San Diego feeling renewed and motivated to take what I learned and use it to serve others, helping them achieve their goals faster than they would in my absence.
From San Diego, I traveled north to Anaheim, for Tom Ferry’s Success Summit. The event shined a bright spotlight on the power of social media and its ability to give agents a platform for showcasing their service and most importantly, their skills. At the conference, Tom shared some of his best tips for business growth, hosted a live Q&A and discussed ways to create an unstoppable mindset for success in any market. (It’s all about harnessing the greatness that’s already inside of you. When you feel good inside, you exude confidence on the outside. It practically radiates from within you and produces the kind of positive energy that others want to share.)

Both conferences allowed me to network with many of my real estate friends and colleagues, catching up with those I haven’t seen in a while and making new, exciting connections with associates I’ve never met before. In fact, at Success Summit I ran into Dan Forsman, president and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Georgia Properties and members of the Georgia Properties team.

So, what’s the message? As leaders, we have a responsibility to constantly challenge ourselves with novel ideas and find solutions we may not have thought about on our own. We must always resist the stationary position because it is the beginning of the end. If we don’t advance, we fall back, and one excellent way to advance is to attend conferences.Advancement is an ongoing mission that can move forward with digital efforts but really, for the greatest progress, it must happen in person. Social media is undoubtedly vital to success but it will never replace real, human interaction. To sit in a packed audience of passionate colleagues and hear some of our industry’s finest leaders speak about doing what they do best, is an experience no tweet or Instagram post can replace. Learn from the best and you’ll become the best, or at the very least even better than you already are today.

August 10, 2018


By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me first in Northern California, although I write this now as I attempt to pack for an eight-day trip on the road. Anyway, it’s been a busy week, and especially a busy Wednesday that was packed with meeting unforgettable leaders and remembering them, too.

Let me describe for you my day and how on each of three stops I made yesterday I kept encountering the same theme: loyalty.

First, I visited Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Realty in San Bruno, CA, and spent time with brokers Brian Boisson, John Gieseker and Larry Franzella (pictured). Back in 2014, when Larry and his team first joined Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, he described the name as “fresh and exciting – not part of the old guard in real estate.”

Since day 1, Larry, John and Brian have been loyal advocates for our brand and this loyalty has inspired every single agent at the company to proudly represent our network in their local market. (Even the administrative assistant Teresa Pesce—who I call the Director of First Impressions—has been with the company for about 12 years.)

Another loyal—and new—ambassador of the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices brand has been Paula Gold-Nocella, a fantastic leader with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Drysdale Properties, who I visited for my third stop of the day at the Pacific Heights location of an office that’ll soon be opening in the area.

In April, Paula earned headlines when she left her position at Vanguard Properties to become a broker at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Drysdale Properties and Regional Partner for the company’s San Francisco and North Bay operations. Paula is a longtime friend of Gretchen Pearson, Drysdale Properties’ fearless leader and CEO, and Gretchen was responsible for recruiting Paula into the company. Paula is an industry veteran, highly regarded production leader and luxury property authority in Northern California and under hers and Gretchen’s helm, I have no doubt the luxury real estate operations will see tremendous growth.

Now, you might be wondering why I skipped from stop one to stop three and there’s a good reason. In between witnessing the loyalty and leadership of John, Larry, Brian and Paula, I attended the memorial service for my great pal Dwight “The Catch” Clark, five-time Super Bowl Champion, football icon and above all, an incredible, loyal friend.

Named “Dwight Clark: A Celebration of Life,” the gathering was just that … an invitation-only opportunity for Dwight’s closest friends and family to memorialize a life so fully lived.

Dwight’s service was attended by some of football’s finest—NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, former 49ers president Carmen Policy, and notable players and coaches like Ronnie Lott, Jerry Rice, Harris Barton, Keena Turner, Roger Craig, Merton Hanks, Jesse Sapolu, George Seifert, Steve Mariucci, Steve Bono and Bubba Paris. Lots of media were also there, like the great ESPN sportscaster and National Sports Media Association Hall of Fame inductee, Chris Burman.

The ceremony included a welcome message and prayer from esteemed local reverends, deans and pastors; fan reflections on “The Catch” read by Dwight Hicks (former safety for the San Francisco 49ers from 1979 to 1985) and Brent Jones (former tight end who played with the 49ers from 1987 to 1997); reflections from Dwight’s younger brother, Jeff Clark and niece Meredith Matsumoto; a moving song—Ubi Caritas—by the Men of the Cathedral Choir; reflections from legendary 49ers quarterback Joe Montana and finally, a eulogy from Eddie J. Debarolo, Jr., former owner of the 49ers.

Dwight’s brother Jeff delivered a moving talk that focused on family and heritage. He described their father as a passive man who wanted to solve problems – he was 6’4,” 315 lbs.—and their mother, in comparison, was 5’2” and 125 lbs., a fiercely loyal woman who supported her sons no matter what. Jeff said: “In my home we talked a lot about honor. We talked a lot about blood. That you take care of blood. And my parents instilled that and it’s a shame that you have to go through something like this family is going through to really realize how important family is.”

Eddie also gave one of my favorite speeches of the day, which focused on Dwight’s most memorable attribute that for me also profoundly defined his entire being: loyalty.

“A lot of words have been used to describe Dwight—a Southern gentleman, selfless, handsome, humble, caring, courageous, loving, funny,” he said. “The one I think that best describes him is loyal. Dwight Clark was loyal to every single person he knew. If you met him once, you felt you had known him your entire life. You never forgot that moment.”

That sentiment about loyalty and particularly, Dwight’s loyalty, rang out so clearly with me.

So, what’s the message? There’s a famous quote by Woodrow Wilson: “Loyalty means nothing unless it has at its heart the absolute principle of self-sacrifice,” and that message of giving all for others is one that resonated throughout the ceremony.

“This is probably one of the toughest things I’ve ever done,” said Montana. “I think as we look around the room, at all the people who’ve come from so far … It speaks a lot about Dwight … what he gave.”

Added Eddie: “ALS took so much from Dwight but it couldn’t break his spirit. And it didn’t dare touch his heart and his great smile. I’m so thankful that I’ve had so many moments that he left me to cherish.”

Just as Eddie finished his speech, the bells of the church chimed out for noon, as they do every day at the exact same time with a rhythm and loyalty heard by all.

August 3, 2018


By Gino Blefari

This week my travels first took me to Irvine, CA and next to La Mirada for an awards celebration with Bruce Mulhearn, president/owner of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties, and the California Properties team where I delivered my “8 Principles of Success” to the crowd. It was an incredible event with more than 350 network agents in attendance and I was inspired by the passion and determination displayed by every single one of them.

Today, I spent most of the late morning and early afternoon in Los Angeles, meeting with our ad agency of record, VaynerMedia.

There’s a lot that can be lauded about the VaynerMedia team—their creativity, their can-do attitude, their fearlessly forward-looking leader, Gary Vaynerchuk—but today, I want to highlight two aspects of the company that are particularly central to our Thoughts on Leadership discussion: history and culture.

The two concepts marry well together. History, as I see it, focuses on the lessons from our past; and culture, in my estimation, is the sociological agriculture we nurture to keep our present mindset vibrant and sustain our future. So, let’s start with history: If you’ve ever read about Gary Vaynerchuk, co-founder and CEO of VaynerMedia, you’ll know his story is one characterized by intense optimism, business savvy and most importantly, hustle. He was raised in Edison, New Jersey and went to college at Mount Ida in Newton, Mass.

Before, during and after college, Gary worked at his father’s liquor store in Springfield, New Jersey. (Coincidentally, the store was located exactly 179.9 miles south of the town where I was born: Pittsfield, Mass. Maybe this explains the kindred spirit I feel for the innovative entrepreneur!) The store was called Shoppers Discount Liquors—eventually renamed Wine Library—and would become the first stepping stone in Gary’s incredible business-building career.

Quickly after starting his job at the store, he decided to turn Shoppers Discount Liquors into a brand. Gary launched the very first wine e-commerce business, WineLibrary.com and used what he knew about Google AdWords—back then, a revolutionary concept—to skyrocket sales. (He grew the shop’s annual revenues from $3 million to $45 million by 2003.)

Long story short, the digital success of WineLibrary.com would be Gary’s first taste of not only the internet’s power to move product but also, as would be the case in the years to come, social media marketing.

In 2009 he launched VaynerMedia with his younger brother, A.J. “I’m excited because this company has completely confused the market,” he told Fortune in 2014. “When I first started it, everyone was like, ‘Oh, Mr. A-lot-of-Twitter-followers thinks he can completely win this world.’ And we’ve not only competed, we will be considered a new standard.”

In fact, four years later and his prediction is right. VaynerMedia currently employs about 800 people and generates more than $100 million in revenue each year.

Part of his success comes from our second point of discussion: culture. Gary calls VaynerMedia a “human-based company” and considers preserving company culture the number one priority. In a blog post written two years ago, he said his culture has been built largely on “people and the relationships I have with them.”

Like a great sports team that has played together for seasons (compared with one that comes together just for an all-star game), you can have the most superstar employees in the world but if they aren’t working cohesively and with a genuine enjoyment for what they do, your culture will suffer.

“Life’s a value exchange,” Gary wrote in his post. “When you care about your employees, it translates into the value you can give back to your company.”

Some of this translates into the physical space of an office, which promotes collaboration and serendipity; VaynerMedia employees enjoy an open floor plan and spend their time in a space flooded with natural light, and decorated by motivational quotes and hashtags (#VMLA). But a lot of it also comes from the intangibles. Gary sits down with every new employee and spends time finding out what they value most in life and work. “When it comes down to it, you need to make sure that each employee is happy with where you are,” he wrote. “When you help make your employees happy, it gives them a reason to be excited to be part of your company.”

So, what’s the message? As leaders, we’re always looking back to learn while simultaneously charging ahead to grow. It’s a perpetual balancing act grounded in authenticity and honesty, and driven by just how much we care about making others’ lives better. Like VaynerMedia, we must take inspiration from the grind and grit of our past then use it to shape a brighter tomorrow. Ultimately, it’s how we’ll achieve our goals and #succeed.

July 27, 2018


By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me in Las Vegas for Mike Ferry’s Superstar Retreat with HSF Affiliates COO Chris Stuart and our entire business development team. I’ve written before about the efficacy of Mike’s events and I was motivated to attend this one by one terrible word: complacency.

There’s a great line I often recite: “I call complacency the most insidious disease in the world; it just sits there on your shoulder and tells you whatever you’re doing is OK.”

Why is complacency not only bad but also so inherently deceptive? Because it’s a crutch and a truly duplicitous lie that keeps us operating at the status quo, which in effect, is never enough to succeed. (As you know, one of my other favorite sayings is, “Once you think you know it all, your slide to mediocrity has already begun.”)

But complacency is more nuanced than just having a cavalier attitude motivated by unchecked ego. It’s an actual state of being that prevents us from progressive, transformative change. Modern business—across all industries—is altered every day by disruptive technologies, innovative hacks and the fast-moving evolution of heightened consumer expectations. In such a fickle environment, complacency is one of the worst traits a leader can possess.

One of the best traits, of course, is persistence, and when coupled with goals set high, it leads to accomplishment. I’ve been going to Mike Ferry’s Superstar retreats since 1986—that’s 32 years if you’re counting—and I return each time because I need to rid myself of any lingering complacency by being surrounded with top performers who are driven to continually push themselves beyond the limits of what they think they’re capable of achieving. Low expectations lead to complacency. Mediocre goals lead to complacency. A lack of motivation or an unwillingness to change leads to complacency and Mike doesn’t stand for any of it. Neither do the high, high producers who sit in the audience at his events.

“Surround yourself with people who are only going to lift you higher,” Mike said. Isn’t that the truth?

One of the best ways to remove complacency from your mindset is to put yourself in a situation where you are continually confronted with those who are self-motivated, inspired and most importantly, inspiring. “Want to raise your confidence?” Gary Vaynerchuk, social media guru and CEO of our ad agency of record, VaynerMedia, once asked, “Stop hanging around people who don’t want to win.”

So, what’s the message? To eradicate complacency from your life, you have to spend time with leaders who are simply doing more and doing it better -- like the crowd at Mike Ferry’s Las Vegas retreat. Remember, casualness creates casualties. A non-complacent mindset requires taking risks, facing challenges and fostering a mindset that doesn’t settle on the laurels of your last success. As Mike Ferry said, “Have high goals and keep pushing yourself to succeed.”

July 20, 2018


By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me in Westlake Village, CA, to meet with Bob Majorino and the team at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Realty. Bob is the CEO and owner of California Realty and a dedicated real estate industry veteran.

In fact, just spending time with Bob and his agents, managers and staff at his brokerage, made me think about the idea of longevity and its power to create positive change and propel a business—and its loyal sales professionals—ever forward. What makes someone stick around? What makes someone leave?

Longtime students of recruitment and retention have been pondering these questions for years but no matter what your solutions are, the fact remains that there must be something about an organization that entices people to join and more importantly, stay.

The concept of longevity is so important that it’s part of Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s core values of trust, integrity, stability and longevity. At Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, we’ve adopted these values as our own core attributes because frankly, they’re just that important for success.

California Realty and more specifically, Bob Majorino, represents longevity at work. Bob is a Southern California native who began his business career working with the IMB Corporation in the field of engineering, education and management divisions. In 1978 he became a real estate agent and opened his own company within 24 months of being licensed. He joined the Prudential Real Estate brokerage network on Nov. 30, 1993 and his firm became Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Realty on July 1, 2014 … almost four years to the day that I write this post.

If you’re counting, he’s been a member of one of our networks about 24 years and many of his agents and staff members have been with him for about as long. For instance, Linda Kay, his manager of operations and career development, has been with the company since 2002.

Again, we ask the question: Why do people stay?

Well, in Bob’s case, a lot of it has to do with the culture he’s built, which is one characterized by deep empathy, collaboration and a willingness to help others achieve their goals. And that feeling of support comes directly from the top; Bob’s agents know he cares profoundly and genuinely about their businesses. He cares that they succeed, he’s on the forefront of the battleground, fighting it out with them when issues arise, celebrating with them when milestones are reached, and they know that completely. His agents believe in him and his leadership, and he believes in their ability to prosper. He might even see the potential in them before they see it in themselves, as any great leader should.

So, what’s the message? It may seem obvious but one of the big keys to longevity is to show the people who work for you how much you care. This doesn’t just happen through moral support; it also means providing the learning, tools and systems necessary to enhance their skills. Another way to care? Handwritten birthday cards—I write hundreds each year—and a keen ability to listen more than you speak. What do they like about their jobs? What can be improved? Because at the end of the day, your company is only as good—and as poised for the long-term longevity you seek—as the team members that make it thrive. Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, Inc. once said, “People are definitely a company’s greatest asset. It doesn’t make any difference whether the company’s product is cars or cosmetics. A company is only as good as the people it keeps.”

July 13, 2018


By Gino Blefari

This week my travels first found me first in Hawai’i, spending time with my family. Next, I flew home to Northern California for a brief “staycation.” (As you know, I’m a big proponent of balance and adding downtime to your calendar before work; I’ve had this time off scheduled since last year.)

As I recharge and relax, I’ve also used the opportunity to go through certain rooms in my house and throw things away. Believe it or not, it makes me supremely happy to organize … sifting through closets, organizing my garage and cleaning out drawers. It’s incredibly satisfying to get rid of stuff I simply don’t need.

Psychology Today calls this the “clutter effect,” which references how clutter can interrupt your physical ability to move and even more damaging, your mental ability to think. The publication references a collection of recent studies on stress, life satisfaction and health that emphasize the cognitive value of streamlining.

You’ll find, as I did this week, that by throwing things away, you create a more peaceful state of mind. Often, we keep unnecessary things around not because we are attached to the object itself but because we have some emotional tie to what it represents in our minds. But if this is the case, then removing it will be a liberating experience. In fact, decluttering has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety, while simultaneously bolstering self-confidence and sharpening decision-making skills.

Getting rid of unnecessary items also helps with time management. If you know exactly where everything is, you’ll more easily be able to navigate your morning routine, ensuring you’re creating positive habits that lead to future success.

(On a practical note, you may also find financial benefits from tidying up; following Gary Vayernchuk’s method of gaining extra money, you could easily sell online or “flip” whatever would normally be thrown away. “We all have a ton of items laying around and with the e-commerce and sales platforms that exist today, these can all be sold faster than ever,” he wrote.)

So, what’s the message? The art of throwing things away or de-cluttering is not just cathartic or financially beneficial, it’s also a great lesson in leadership with parallels to best practices for goal setting. When setting goals, the clearer and more concise you are, the better chance you’ll have to achieve them. Real estate may be location, location, location but goal-setting is clarity, clarity, clarity. And by de-cluttering your home, you’ll be creating a synergy with the now-organized living space you inhabit every day and the cogent, precise and well-defined goals you set out to achieve.

July 6, 2018

#169 Thoughts on Leadership: How Elite Leaders Lead

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in Kona, Hawai'i for the 2018 Berkshire Elite Circle Conference, a truly elite retreat that our team hosted at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai.

More than 50 member brokers and their guests stood up in unison and gave a thunderous standing ovation when Joan Docktor, Larry Flick Jr. and Barbara Griest were honored as the leaders of the No. 1 Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices brokerage in the entire network, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach, REALTORS®. (Joan is the president of Fox & Roach, REATLORS®; Larry is the CEO of Fox & Roach, REALTORS®; and Barbara is the president of The Trident Group.)

The collective enthusiasm of this illustrious Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices group for the accomplishments of the Fox & Roach, REALTORS® team symbolized the mutual respect that represents not only our leading member brokers but also the closeness, connectivity and support that is the basis for our entire network.

Elite leaders understand that honoring one another and supporting one another is essential for sustainable, collaborative success.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank Denise Doyle, vice president of global conference and meeting services at HSF Affiliates, and her hard-working team for putting together a truly unforgettable event. From the beachside dinners to the luaus to the quality of our sessions … everything was executed with professionalism and exacting attention to detail.

A few days ago, I had the chance to take a helicopter ride with my family and fly over the lava that’s currently flowing on the Big Island. I joked with our brokers that we need to stop promulgating the old saying from Mark Twain that one of the reasons why real estate is such a great investment is because, “They’re not making any more of it.”

This clearly isn’t true as the erupting volcano on the big island of Hawai’i has enlarged the size of the island.

I specifically raise this point as a metaphor that we should always be willing to challenge any and all real estate clichés. It’s what the greatest leaders do and how our Berkshire Elite Circle leaders found the success we celebrated in Hawai’i. A cliché exists because it’s a shortcut used to explain a challenge that hasn’t yet been met with real answers.

In leadership, we are confronted with clichés all the time. Some leaders may fall into the trap of doing something one way because that’s the way it has always been done. But the best leaders understand that a cliché exists to be broken and instead of relying on a cliché, understand that it represents the perpetuation of a falsehood and use it to find a new solution to an old problem.

So, what’s the message? It’s one I’ve been thinking about in Hawai'i as I met with our Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices network leaders at this conference. In business, innovation and change is key. Never rest on the laurels of your success, never use a cliché as an excuse. Work hard, be different and embrace the esoteric because like the lava that flows in Hawai'i, some of our toughest and seemingly insurmountable challenges may actually reveal themselves as chances to create something entirely new.

June 29, 2018


By Gino Blefari

This week my travels first found me in Northern California, preparing for the upcoming Berkshire Elite Circle Conference. This morning, I departed for Hawaii, and I’m en route to the Big Island as I write this to you now.

Another important milestone of the week happened in celebration of a longtime friend. Between conference calls and emails, I took time to honor a titan of our industry, Mike Ferry, on his birthday, which took place yesterday.

I first met Mike Ferry, CEO/owner of The Mike Ferry Organization, in 1986, at the Superstar Retreat he hosted in Newport Beach with Floyd Wickman. From that day on, Mike has made a huge impact on me and my career. In fact, if I had to single out the one person who has had the greatest impact on my decades-long journey in real estate, I’d say that person is Mike Ferry.

Mike has been my friend and mentor for 32 years and it was with deep respect, gratitude and appreciation that I participated in “I Made A Difference Day” yesterday, an initiative put together by his team, with his wife, Sabrina, leading the charge.

How do you define “I Made A Difference Day?” It was an opportunity to give back in celebration of Mike’s selfless spirit and relentless drive to help others. As I wrote in my #IMadeADifferenceDay social media posts, my own contribution involved going to Specialty’s, a food and coffee shop near our Irvine headquarters. Here’s what I did when I got there:

I waited in line for a few minutes—Specialty’s was empty when I got there—and when the very first person walked through the door and approached the cash register, I offered to buy his coffee.

He was surprised and delighted to be the recipient of “I Made A Difference Day," and even told me he was originally planning to just sit outside and read a book without a coffee. Instead, he made a last-minute decision that he wanted a caffeinated pick-me-up while he read. I was happy to oblige.

After the coffee was bought and friendly words were exchanged, he went back outside into the sunny, Southern California day to read his book, free coffee in hand. I didn’t know much about him except that in some small way, I had contributed to making his morning a little bit brighter. And the experience made me feel brighter, too.

This might sound obvious but giving back is a crucial aspect to great leadership and sustainable success. It’s only fair that good fortune should be shared and altruism for altruism’s sake will always positively impact company culture and overall morale.

So, what’s the message? Leaders are undoubtedly in a unique position to make a difference. We all have a network of connections at our disposal, social media to help spread the message and experience inspiring others. Plus, making a difference is an act with no measurement to it. You cannot quantify giving back. Even something as small as buying a stranger coffee can impact his or her entire day, month or year. As Oscar Wilde once said, “The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.” And as Mike Ferry reminded us on his own #I MadeADifferenceDay, the best part about making a difference is that it’s something every single one of us can—and should—do.

June 22, 2018


By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me first in New York City for meetings with prospective brokerages then back to Irvine at our HSF Affiliates headquarters. I’m a big fan of the idea that new eyes see old things in new ways and that’s why I am constantly listening to books. It’s also why I often re-listen to those books that have a deep and profound impact on my business, philosophy and life. Recently, I gave a second listen to Never Split the Difference, and enlightening book by former FBI lead hostage negotiator, Chris Voss.

In today’s post, I want to outline five additional pieces of wisdom he puts forth that I think you’ll find useful in your own business negotiations.

June 15, 2018


By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me on Monday in Northern California, on Tuesday through Thursday at noon in Minneapolis and now, as I write this on Thursday afternoon, in New York City. But let’s get back to Monday when, ironically I was in my beach house, the Capitola home once belonging to my partner and great pal, Dwight “The Catch” Clark. It was there I received the tragic news from Dwight’s wife, Kelly, that he lost his battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and had passed on.

While in Minneapolis for the HomeServices of America, Inc. CEO meeting, I was greeted with hugs from colleagues and endless condolences from those who knew of my close friendship with Dwight, including many who had met him at our Sales Conventions in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

To say Dwight inspired me almost doesn’t do the word justice. He helped me understand the kind of selfless, determined and generous human being every great leader should be. I was lucky enough to witness his incredible charity work with the Intero Foundation and the Sunshine Kids, and well before that to be a San Francisco 49ers fan in the 1980s and watch Dwight play for my favorite team.

Dwight is best known as a five-time Super Bowl champion—two wins as a player and three in 49ers management—but who can say if his great run would’ve ever happened if it wasn’t for that incredible Sunday in January of 1982 … That’s when “Too Tall” Jones and what seemed like the entire Dallas Cowboys’ Doomsday Defense was chasing quarterback Joe Montana and Dwight was trying to lose Cowboys’ defensive back Everson Walls across the back of Candlestick Park’s end zone. What happened next has since been memorialized in sports history books: Dwight caught the winning touchdown pass thrown by Montana and the “upstart” 49ers won the NFC Championship Game that year. The play vaulted San Francisco into Super Bowl XVI two weeks later in which the 49ers beat Cincinnati.

“It’s a madhouse at Candlestick,” yelled famed announcer Vin Scully over the roar of an electrified crowd.

Today, “The Catch” is considered the #7 most memorable play in the NFL and #1 for the 49ers, although many football insiders call it the most significant play in the sport, ever.

“Start of a dynasty,” described Carmen Policy, former president of the 49ers.

Arms outstretched, leaping like Hercules, Dwight really was the image of impossible possibility, a winner unlike any other and not just because of his mettle but also because of his might. Dwight’s unstoppable mindset touched so many, and that is never more evident now that he’s no longer with us, in the words and photos shared across the world to commemorate our beloved hero.

On Twitter, former 49ers quarterback Joe Montana called him a “vibrant, charismatic soul.” And writing on behalf of him and his wife, Montana said, “We are grateful for the decades of love and friendship we shared.”

Eddie DeBartolo, former owner of the 49ers–considered the greatest owner of any sports franchise who was by Dwight’s side right until the very end–posted that his “heart is broken.” He wrote: “Today, I lost my little brother and one of my best friends, I cannot put into words how special Dwight was to me and to everyone his life touched. He was an amazing husband, father, grandfather, brother and a great friend and teammate. He showed tremendous courage and dignity in his battle with ALS and we hope there will soon be a cure for this horrendous disease …”

ESPN’s Tony Grossi described Dwight as “always an optimistic person,” and Cris Collinsworth, former wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals said, “Dwight Clark may have been the most humble star the NFL has ever produced. Yes he was fun and funny, but Dwight had an innate goodness to him that will never be forgotten by those who had the good fortune to know him.”

(A note on Collinsworth’s words: In our real estate industry, as in the NFL, where we also celebrate and salute success and where personal promotion is a staple of many of our marketing campaigns, we all should, including me, never forget Dwight for his humility. His modesty is perhaps more than any other human quality what endeared my dear friend to all who knew him.)

Gil Brandt, former vice president of player personnel for the Dallas Cowboys, tweeted, “I was on the sidelines for The Catch. Eight years later at [Super Bowl XXIV] after SF beat DEN 55-10, I waited for [a] taxi back to [the] hotel. One pulls up, window rolls down. ‘Get in Gil!’ It was Dwight Clark. I told him how he broke my heart. We laughed. All was good between us. Dwight made sure of it.”

On Instagram, Tom Brady, All-Pro quarterback of the New England Patriots, wrote: “Dwight Clark was one of my idols growing up in San Mateo. I was lucky enough to be at the game where my hero Joe Montana perfectly placed the game winning throw/catch to Dwight in the corner of the end zone to beat the Cowboys … I was 4 years old and cried to my parents the entire first half because I couldn’t see the field when the grownups would stand and scream for the 49ers. I got a chance to meet [Dwight] when we happened to share the same orthodontist in San Mateo and I sabotaged one of his visits just to meet him and shake his hand. He was incredibly gracious to me that day as a young boy. And I never forgot the impact he made on me as all of our heroes do.”

In every ode, the central theme was that no matter what, Dwight was a true team player. Being a real leader isn’t about just telling everyone how you’ll lead the way; it’s about the actions you deploy during those tough times when the weight of an entire football team is on your back and you must still somehow leap up, move forward and figure out a way to take hold of the win.

In fact, writing for our Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices blog, Dwight once explained his own philosophy on leadership: “When I reflect on my career playing with the San Francisco 49ers, one word comes to mind: fortunate. And fortune, as I define it, is the place where preparation meets opportunity. If you think about your life’s most extraordinary feats—whether it’s winning Super Bowls or winning in business—yes, there’s always some measure of luck involved but there’s also a whole lot of hard training, planning and hard work that has to happen long before luck arrives. Then, if you’re fully prepared at the exact moment luck finally does ring, you can pick up the phone and answer its call.”

Of course, Dwight references the fateful day at Clemson University when he received one very important call. Back then joining the NFL was just a lifelong, though uncertain dream for Dwight. He didn’t have the statistics—he only caught 11 passes his senior year and had a total of 33 receptions during his four years as wide receiver for the Tigers—but what he lacked in stats he made up for with grit.

Still, he was hopeful, and on this particular day was feeling optimistic as he headed out the door, clubs on his back, for a round of golf. Suddenly, the phone rang and his first thought was – “Better not get that. It’s probably someone who wants me to do something and then if I do it, I’ll never play golf today.”

His second thought: “What if the call is for Steve?”

Dwight was living with Clemson quarterback (and ACC Offensive Player of the Year) Steve Fuller, who would be a top choice for the upcoming NFL draft.

Dwight picked up the phone and yes, it was for Steve. On the other end, legendary 49ers coach Bill Walsh said hello then unexpectedly invited Dwight to join Steve’s workout to run routes and catch Steve’s passes so Bill could better evaluate him. During the session, Steve had a tough day but Dwight caught everything … including Bill’s attention. When the NFL draft took place weeks later, Dwight was drafted by Bill in the 10th round. (If you want the numbers for his nine-year career in the NFL here they are: Dwight had 48 career touchdowns, 6,750 yards and 506 catches, including The Catch.)

In his post, Dwight described the start of his career as “the ultimate meeting between opportunity and preparation.” He also wrote, “I know this tale could’ve had a very different ending if I hadn’t spent years running drills, if I hadn’t practiced all those long hours, if I hadn’t worked my hardest on the field each and every day. Because if none of that ever happened, the phone call would have meant nothing. But I did and it did, turning a dream once thought out of my reach into something that could fall right into my hands.”

So, what’s the message? For me, it’s something Dwight said years ago when we were watching the 49ers play the Baltimore Ravens during Super Bowl XLVII. With 2:39 left in game, the 49ers had a first and goal at Baltimore’s seven-yard line, driving to win the game. After a running play gained two yards, the 49ers ran the clock to the two-minute warning. From there, three consecutive passes to receiver Michael Crabtree fell incomplete. At that time, I looked at Dwight in disappointment and said, “Boy, if he could’ve only gotten open.” To which Dwight replied without any hesitation, “When it’s the Super Bowl, you find a way to get open. Bill Walsh always told us, ‘All competitors find a way to win.’”

Isn’t that the truth?

Dwight, I can’t say you lost your battle with ALS because that would mean you aren’t a true competitor and you are a competitor in every sense of the word. I can only say that reading all the heartfelt tributes posted in your honor, watching my phone explode for days with hundreds of text messages, Facebook notifications and calls from those whose lives you continue to inspire, and witnessing how an entire country is now in mourning for a football legend and an even greater human being, it’s evident that even as life was taken from your grasp, you still found a way to win.

June 08, 2018


By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me in Orange County for leadership meetings and the HSF Affiliates Town Hall. As I discuss initiatives and track our 4DX WIGs with the team, I want to share some key takeaways we’re focused on to create positive, sustainable momentum that may be applied in your own businesses:

  1. Check your lead measures to make sure they’re meaningful in driving your Wildly Important Goals (WIGs). Lead measures (the activities that drive the WIG) are set prior to the completion of your WIG but that doesn’t mean they’re really the most important initiatives that will help your team accomplish its goal. (Remember: Discipline 2 in the 4DX system is the discipline of leverage.) For instance, if you decide a particular new marketing piece will help drive a recruitment WIG, be sure you also pull relevant data to determine if this lead measure is significant. Ask: Who is using this new marketing piece and what is the result? If you create an eBook, for instance, and it looks sleek and tells your story but nobody is downloading or engaging with it, can you really say that it’s helping to drive your recruiting goal?
  2. Make sure you can always easily view your data. Data makes the world (and your WIGs) go ‘round. At all times in the 4DX process, you should be able to view exactly how close you are to achieving your desired goal. Be sure you’re tracking all initiatives with visible, clean data and review your metrics reports diligently and with a regular cadence. Also, don’t forget the five second rule: If it takes more than five seconds to figure out whether you’re winning or losing, it’s too complicated.
  3. Successful WIG completion is all in the execution. Of course, strategy is important but like that shiny, new eBook that wasn’t downloaded, you can have the greatest strategy ever known to humankind but if it’s not executed and your team members aren’t held accountable for its execution, you have nothing. When it comes to completing goals, it’s a matter of execution and accountability. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Do the thing and you will have the power. But they that do not the thing, had not the power.”
  4. A proper WIG call has three components: 1. Report. 2. Review the scoreboard and 3. Plan for next week. When done right, a WIG call can be a well-oiled machine. Most of the WIG calls I participate on with our team members last no more than 20 minutes. It’s this kind of efficiency that’ll help you really achieve your goals. Remember, casualness creates casualties. Keep your WIG meetings on a strict, regular agenda.
  5. When setting goals, your team should have a budgeted goal that’s conservative as well as a “stretch goal.” This stretch goal should incentivize team members to achieve even more than they might have previously thought possible. In sales, even when you hit your goal, you still keep hauling. You never stop pushing, you never stop reaching beyond what you think you’re capable of accomplishing. That’s how you truly win, and win big.

So, what’s the message? Goals are both complex and simple. Simple because they’re binary: Did you accomplish your WIG or did you not accomplish your WIG? Yet complex because there are often a multitude of key drivers and activities that go into making sure goals are brought to completion. Ask yourself and your team: What is the one thing that if everything else remained the same would have the greatest impact? Put a system in place, set your goals, hold team members accountable to these goals and most importantly, execute.

June 01, 2018


By Gino Blefari

This week my travels first found me in Las Vegas for ICSC, the world’s largest global gathering of retail real estate professionals. More than 37,000 industry professionals and 1,200 exhibitors packed the Las Vegas Convention Center, including our own commercial real estate team.

It was an engaging conference filled with insights about where the commercial real estate industry is today and where it’s going.

From Las Vegas I traveled to Irvine for meetings at our HSF Affiliates headquarters and the travel time allowed me to reflect on a book I just finished, Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It by Christopher Voss and Tahl Raz.

Christopher Voss is a former international hostage negotiator for the FBI, who offers field-tested techniques to win any kind of negotiation … whether it’s in the boardroom or your office.

It’s funny because as I read the book, I realized some of the advice he outlines is so practical, we already put it to use without really knowing we’re employing critical negotiation techniques. One real-life example that comes to mind happened on a flight to Hawaii. I watched as an irritated traveler berated an airline attendee.

I turned to the attendee, commiserating with the frustrated attendee, and said, “Wow this kind of thing probably doesn’t even surprise you.”

She smiled and the next thing I knew, I had an upgraded ticket.

As Voss would say in his book, this is “tactical empathy,” which is the ability to recognize the perspective of a counterpart and vocalize that recognition effectively. This kind of tactical empathy allows you to influence the next moments to come.

Here are five other key takeaways that I think you’ll find useful while negotiating in your own leadership roles:

  1. Give someone permission to say “no” to your ideas. Saying yes is meaningless; surface agreement can often hide deeper objections. “No,” however, is a powerful answer when negotiating because by giving someone permission to reject your idea, you can then ask solution-based questions to understand what it is that they want. “No” is not a rejection, it is the start to an open, honest conversation.
  2. The job of a negotiator isn’t to put on a great, winning performance. It’s to guide your counterpart into believing that your idea is his or her own.
  3. Internalize the idea that “no deal is better than a bad deal.” This takes the deadline out of the equation and creates a situation where you can be patient, which is a powerful negotiation weapon.
  4. The best kind of negotiation ends in a deal that is not just an end to an argument but also something that can be implemented and executed to completion. Remember my post a few weeks ago about accountability partners? The reason they’re so effective is because they allow you to execute on your objectives and goals.
  5. Remember the 7-38-55 rule: 7 percent of a message is based on words, 38 percent is derived from tone of voice and 55 percent from body language and facial expressions.

So, what’s the message? In business, in leadership and in life if you can learn how to negotiate a difficult situation, you’ll be that much closer to achieving your goals and creating an environment conducive to collaboration and growth. Negotiation isn’t a negative aspect of any deal. It’s actually a forward-moving concept and one that promotes sustainable prosperity. As Voss wrote in his book: “Conflict brings out truth, creativity and resolution.”

May 25, 2018


By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me first in Omaha for the Berkshire Hathaway Shareholders Meeting over the weekend, next in Northern California then to Southern California for alignment sessions and Mike Ferry’s 2018 Management Retreat at the Hyatt Regency in Huntington Beach.

As I travel from event to event and meeting to meeting, I’m reminded about the importance of being held accountable to the goals I’ve set. It’s easy to forget your goals in the often chaotic whirlwind of the everyday. Yet, it’s during those moments when you’re at your busiest that you must hold yourself accountable the most.

But how? Well, remember Discipline 4 in the 4DX system: Create a cadence of accountability. According to FranklinCovey, the business consulting firm founded on the principles of The Four Disciplines of Execution, this means, “Each team member must engage in a simple weekly process that highlights successes, analyzes failures and course-corrects as necessary, creating the ultimate performance-management system.”

As FranklinCovey explains, “The cadence of accountability is a rhythm of regular and frequent team meetings that focus on the Wildly Important Goal. These meetings happen weekly, sometimes daily. Ideally, they last no more than 20 minutes. In that brief time, team members hold each other accountable for commitments made to move the score.”

At HSF Affiliates, most—if not all—of our departments engage in regular “WIG calls.” Our team members are paired up with an accountability partner and together, these partners hold each other accountable for completing whatever it is they said they’d get done. It could be as simple as drinking eight cups of water a day or as complex as closing a deal on an exciting, new prospective affiliate. In fact, Mike Ferry was my mentor and accountability partner for many, many years. We had a weekly accountability call where I had to let him know what I accomplished every week and if any of you know Mike, you know he would not tolerate “excuse-itis.”

Not only can an accountability partner ensure you’ll meet your goals, he or she can also be a sounding board for ideas that you might otherwise have to tackle on your own. A really great accountability partner tracks your adherence to commitments and is also there to help guide you toward success.

In fact, Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor from Dominican University of California, proved in a 2015 study that having an accountability partner can lead to greater productivity. Matthews recruited 267 participants from a wide variety of businesses, organizations and networking groups throughout the U.S., ranging in age from 23 to 72 with varied backgrounds but specific goals they wanted to achieve.

She found that 70% of the participants who sent weekly updates to a friend—an accountability partner to use our lingo—reported successful goal achievement. In comparison, of those who kept their goals to themselves, only 35% reported actually seeing them through to completion. The findings produced by this study represent compelling scientific evidence to prove that in order to turn procrastination into productivity, it helps to have an accountability partner by your side.

Another reason an accountability partner is important is because he or she will celebrate your small wins, reinforcing your motivation to keep on winning. (As famed NFL Coach Vince Lombardi once said, “Winning is a habit.”)

While self-affirmation is healthy and important, sometimes it’s the encouragement of a friend and the influence of an outsider’s perspective that sets you on the right path. Great leadership doesn’t happen in isolation. It takes the support of others—and the constructive criticism—to create the kind of forward movement that allows you to consistently execute on your plans and ultimately, reach your goals.

So, what’s the message? If you don’t have one already, decide today that you’ll find an accountability partner and set up regular meetings to check in—I strongly recommend holding them daily—then be firm about the agenda you set to ensure you have a regular cadence of accountability in place. Remember, an accountability partner is just like a trainer at a gym or a business mentor; he or she is there for you 100% and is the person guiding you toward achieving your goals with confidence, motivation and speed. Remember, an accountability partner is there to confront you on your excuses and has high expectations that whatever you say you’ll do, you actually get done. Find the right partner, set your Wildly Important Goals and watch how quickly the wins that once evaded you now become that much easier to obtain. Also, stay tuned next week, where we’ll dive deeper into the accountability process …

May 11, 2018


By Gino Blefari

This week’s travels took me to Minneapolis for the HomeServices of America, Inc. board meeting then to Louisville, Kentucky for a leadership meeting hosted by Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Parks & Weisberg, Realtors. After Kentucky I flew to Knoxville, Tennessee—where I write you this week’s blog post—and from here I’ll travel tomorrow to Omaha for the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting. (Expect a recap next week.)

So, all in all it’s been seven days of travel and to be honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way because every stop along this trip has been necessary to create lead measures that will help us accomplish our organization’s goals. Remember, a leader does whatever it takes. As the saying goes, “If you’re interested, you’ll do what’s convenient. If you’re committed, you’ll do what it takes.”

And even if you’re not city-hopping across the country, you can still do a gut check to make sure you are executing on absolutely everything possible to ensure success for your company and team. Even if, while reading this, you’re sitting at a desk, staring at your computer screen, it’s always helpful to re-evaluate your leadership practices and do an internal audit of yourself to make certain you’re completely committed to a whatever-it-takes mindset.

Every business, no matter what sector, can benefit from focusing on growing top-line revenue. Here’s how …

As inspiration, here are a few of my favorite leadership quotes to help you get the job done:

  1. "You can’t be that kid standing at the top of the water slide, overthinking it. You have to go down the chute.” – Tina Fey
  3. "You see, in life, lots of people know what to do but few people actually do what they know. Knowing is not enough. You must take action.” – Tony Robbins
  5. "It always seems impossible until it’s done.” – Nelson Mandela
  7. "Champions keep playing until they get it right.” – Billie Jean King
  9. "Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration. The rest of us just get up and go to work.” – Stephen King
  11. "The only way around is through.” – Robert Frost
  13. "Success is often achieved by those who don’t know that failure is inevitable.” – Coco Chanel
  15. "We can’t become what we need to be by remaining what we are.” – Oprah Winfrey

So, what’s the message? This week, it’s simple. Take a moment and ask yourself: Am I committed to doing whatever it takes to succeed? Think about how you spent your past week, how you scheduled your time, how you balanced your schedule, the productivity you achieved and then be honest in your answer. Did you do whatever it takes? As you assess your leadership mindset today know that the road ahead is not always paved with brand-new concrete and lit by sunshine. Still, we must forge onward no matter what the path looks like ahead. In fact, the challenging journey in front of us should serve as motivation to overcome the obstacles that others deem impossible to traverse. As Warren Buffett once said, “In the business world, the rearview mirror is always clearer than the windshield.”

May 4, 2018


By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in Irvine, CA at our HSF Affiliates headquarters for alignment sessions with prospective brokerages and meetings with our teams. The alignment sessions are always exciting opportunities to meet with innovative companies eager to grow. My personal mission, as you may know, is to help people achieve their goals faster than they would in my absence and for brokerage owners that translates into devising the right strategies that will lead to increased profitability and success for their brokerage.

One way to grow is by increasing your top-line revenue.

As a business owner, your professional life is a constant balance between growing your top-line revenue and maximizing your bottom-line profit. For top-line revenue—the first line of your income statement that represents the total sales in a given period—an owner can compare this number year-over-year and determine if the company is growing or shrinking.

Every business, no matter what sector, can benefit from focusing on growing top-line revenue. Here’s how …

One excellent way to grow-top line revenue is by exploring opportunities your competitors have not discovered yet. Innovation is itself a strong stimulant for top-line revenue growth.

Another way to grow top-line revenue is by re-tailoring your marketing to better suit your ideal customers. At Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, we focus our digital marketing strategy on personas—first-time home buyers, luxury home-buyers, move-up buyers, move-down sellers, etc.—and drill down to the specific messaging that would most appeal to that particular consumer. For our prospective franchisees and current affiliates, this change in marketing can happen merely by joining our brand.

A third way is by putting a system in place to ensure that you’re ready for growth. Our teams here are all fully versed on the principles of the Four Disciplines of Execution and it allows us to coordinate our efforts across multiple departments. What good would it be to acquire a new business, affiliate with a brokerage or attract a large increase of clients if you aren’t adequately prepared to deliver on this influx of business?

Which brings me to my fourth point … to really increase top-line revenue you must have not only the very best customer service but also the very best skills. (Remember, customer service is frosting but cannot be the whole cake.) Consider a surgeon, who runs a clinic and doubles his patient count in two months. Do you think those patients are more concerned about his customer service or that he possesses the skills necessary to perform successful surgery?

Lastly, to increase your top-line revenue, look to technology. Predictive analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning can all help you anticipate what your customers want—or don’t want—and allow you to tailor your business accordingly, which will directly boost your top-line sales. It’s a pretty simple concept: If more customers like what you’re selling, they’re more likely to buy.

So, what’s the message? Focus on top-line revenue. As Gary Vaynerchuk, social media guru and CEO of our ad agency, VaynerMedia once wrote: “The reason I focus on top-line revenue vs. profit … is that you can always drive your profits eventually … you can always start cutting costs or raising prices at any time but [securing] more customers for top-line revenue growth gives you the leverage and scale you need to ultimately convert.”

April 27, 2018


By Gino Blefari

This week’s travels took me first to Seattle for AREAA’s 2018 Global + Luxury Summit and next to T3 Summit in Miami, an invite-only think tank for leaders and executives in the residential real estate industry.

I was proud to attend AREAA’s event in Seattle with Peter Turtzo, SVP of international operations at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices; Rosalie Warner, SVP of network services at HSF Affiliates; Troy Reierson, HSF Affiliates director of business development; and Teresa Palacios Smith, HSF Affiliates vice president of diversity and inclusion. As Teresa says, our organization is working tirelessly to ensure that every facet of what we do mirrors the diversity we find in the marketplace. AREAA was an opportunity to enhance that mission through idea sharing, networking and learning about ways to elevate the standards of our industry.

Seattle was also an ideal setting for the conference, a city focused on technology and green-energy initiatives.

It felt fitting that I should embark on such a momentous and standout trip just before attending T3 Summit, which is itself one of the most powerful and thought-provoking conferences in our industry.

During T3, I was honored to serve on a panel about reconfiguring the traditional brokerage models, along with Sherry Chris, president and CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate; Charlie Young, CEO of Coldwell Banker; Nick Bailey, president and CEO of Century 21; Tami Bonnell, CEO of EXIT Realty; and Adam Contos, the new CEO of RE/MAX. Our panel discussed ways to reinvent the old brokerage model for a new era of real estate.

Additional standout sessions included a keynote about disruption by Frits Van Paasschen, former CEO of Starwood Hotels and Coors, and former corporate vice president and general manager of Europe, Middle East and Africa for Nike Inc. I also enjoyed a keynote from Stefan Swanepoel, founder, chairman and CEO of T3 Sixty about the most pertinent innovations affecting real estate today and an engaging presentation by Nicholas Thompson, editor-in-chief of WIRED Magazine related to the topic of artificial intelligence.

If you’ve been following my Thoughts on Leadership blog posts and attended the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Sales Convention this year, you’ll know the topic of artificial intelligence weighs heavily on my mind, so I found Thompson’s insights particularly fascinating. He explained how AI has—and will continue to have—profound impacts on every aspect of human life, from media consumption to sports reporting to privacy to real estate.

So, what’s the message? It’s one I considered this afternoon as I flew back across the country—from Miami to Phoenix—and it’s all about the journey we’re collectively taking toward an entire existence different from anything we’ve experienced before. As Thompson explained, artificial intelligence is coming at us (or to us) really, really fast. Consider the current wave of AI-enhanced voice assistants (Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and the like) and how they’re slowly but surely providing us with more and more customized information in a way that’s efficient and personal. Thompson reiterated the idea that we can’t ignore the onset of AI—it’s going to revolutionize our world whether we’re ready for it or not—but we can use it to better our society and world. As AI becomes not the future but the now, we must take strategic steps in our businesses to control the technology because no matter how innovative technology can be, it can never control us.

April 13, 2018


By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in Indiana for the Mavericks meeting hosted by Craig West, CEO/co-owner of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Indiana Realty. (If you don’t know what the Mavericks are, you can read about the Mavericks here but in short, it’s a small think-tank group of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices network member CEOs who meet every six months to perform a peer review of the host company, exchange ideas and help fellow members grow.) I always enjoy these meetings because they’re founded in a strong spirit of innovation and collaboration.

During our meeting, we toured a few Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Indiana Realty offices and one of them was in Carmel, the fifth-largest city in Indiana known internationally for its roundabouts. Since the late 1990s, Carmel has been building and replacing signalized intersections with roundabouts and now boasts about 100, more than any other city in the U.S.

The Mavericks Meeting, hosted by Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Indiana Realty.

According to the official Carmel government website, Carmel builds roundabouts because of their underlying safety, their environmentally friendly nature and their ability to make it easier for pedestrians and bicyclists to navigate. In places where the city has replaced traffic signals with roundabouts, the number of accidents has been reduced by 80% and the number of accidents overall by about 40%. They’re also more cost effective; roundabouts are priced at about $125K less to construct than intersections with traffic lights. Further, it’s been documented that roundabouts reduce air pollution by as much as 20% to 30%, and can be directly attributable to declines in gasoline consumption.

Now, I mentioned earlier the serendipitous nature of finding myself in the city with the highest density of roundabouts in the entire country during a meeting that was all about getting to the point and helping brokerages increase profitability through collaboration. How do the two things relate? Well, if you think about it, roundabouts function on collaboration. You enter the roundabout and wait for cars to exit. You move in tandem with the other vehicles as you turn. You exit safely after waiting for cars on the main road to pass. It’s a completely collaborative process and it’s this collaboration that leads to safer roadways.

So, what’s the message? In its strict definition, collaboration is a management practice focused on the leadership skills across functional and organizational boundaries. Without collaboration, there is no innovation. Just like Carmel's roundabouts, without collaboration, there is no forward movement. No one gets to where they need to go. It’s only when you work together that you not only reach your goal (or in the case of the roundabout, your ultimate destination) but also do so in a way that’s even better, more organized and more efficient than you could’ve done on your own.

March 29, 2018


By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me working from Northern California thanks to the fourth Nor’easter that derailed my East Coast plans while on the way to the airport to catch a flight to New Jersey. Snowed in or not, like much of the country, I’ve caught a serious case of March Madness. The tournament is exciting, fast-paced and most importantly, filled with surprising lessons on leadership.

And no match up this year—perhaps no match up in the history of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament—came replete with as many lessons as did Friday’s game between the No. 16 seed UMBC Golden Retrievers and the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed, the University of Virginia Cavaliers. If you didn’t watch the game or haven’t yet heard, the Retrievers not only beat the Cavaliers, they blew them out of the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, N.C., 74-54.

The win wasn’t just stunning, shocking and all the other adjectives used by major media outlets everywhere; it also established a significant first. Since the NCAA tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, no 16-seed had ever overthrown a No. 1 seed. Before this game, there were exactly 135 No. 1 vs. No. 16 matchups and the No. 1 seed won every time.

So history wasn’t on the side of UMBC when the Retrievers took the court but neither were the facts. The school barely made the tournament—it took a 3-point win during the American East Conference title game to secure its berth.

On paper, the Retrievers were undeniably outmatched: shorter, less talented, and far less experienced on the national stage under the bright lights. UMBC’s point guard K.J. Maura was officially named the lightest player in college basketball, measuring a mere 5 feet 6 inches and weighing just 140 pounds. UMBC was ranked 177th in defensive efficiency and 212th in offensive efficiency coming into Friday’s game.

But the greatest-ever sports upsets, (and yes, this was one of them) can only happen when insurmountable odds play against one side and everyone in the world agrees it just can’t be done. It can be done—it was done—and the Retrievers’ win will forever be memorialized as a classic David and Goliath tale, a true Cinderella story that sprang to bracket-busting life.

Still, how did UMBC win? The team, led by head coach Ryan Odom, ignored the long odds from the opening tip, playing full out, putting their whole selves into the game – possession after possession. With the score tied at half, the scrappy, little Retrievers became the big dogs in the fight who simply wanted it more than anything or anyone. They simply wore down the Cavaliers by constantly attacking and scoring. You could see the determination on their faces through the second half; the players were totally in sync.

Although, it wasn’t just great teamwork and desire that secured victory for the Retrievers. It was also the strong leadership and coaching by Odom, son of former East Carolina, Wake Forest and South Carolina coach Dave Odom. (His dad was in the stands watching.) In a turn worthy of you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up, Ryan Odom also used to be the ball boy for UVA’s basketball team.

Now Odom is one of the most talked-about coaches in the NCAA and he achieved his status, according to his father, partly based on an unbending willingness to always get better. “When he made the commitment to coach, every waking day has been spent trying to improve himself,” the elder Odom explained.

If you watched Coach Odom during the game against UVA, he was confident and calm as his team scored basket after basket. After the game, he took no credit and instead, said a combination of hard work and teamwork allowed the impossible to become possible.

So, what’s the message? Maybe this week we can take it from the head coach himself, who even before the team claimed their epic victory, spoke about preparation, determination and working relentlessly to achieve your goals. “We have a saying in our locker room that’s posted up,” he told reporters. “[It] says, ‘The work you do in the dark will reveal itself in the light.”

March 22, 2018


By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in Irvine, CA at our HSF Affiliates LLC headquarters after a busy week in San Antonio for the 2018 Sales Convention. Our annual Sales Convention is always one of my favorite times of the year, a chance to help inspire our network members to innovate, achieve more and grow their businesses through educational sessions, motivational speakers and collaborative discussions. (As I say, in addition to making great connections and learning something new, I guarantee you’ll meet a colleague at Sales Convention who will be good for at least one more deal this year.) But once the event is done, I always take time to recharge.

The concept is powerful yet sometimes overlooked by leaders. We cannot go full force all the time and if we do, we’ll surely wind up burning out or not being fully committed to those particular actions and initiatives (the lead measures) that help us achieve our Wildly Important Goals.

In The Power of Full Engagement, an influential book about leadership by best-selling authors Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz, the mindful duo had this to say about sprinters vs. long-distance runners:

“Think for a moment about the look of many long-distance runners: gaunt, sallow, slightly sunken and emotionally flat. Now visualize a sprinter … Sprinters typically look powerful, bursting with energy and eager to push themselves to their limits. The explanation is simple. No matter how intense the demand they face, the finish line is clearly visible 100 or 200 meters down the track. We, too, must learn to live our lives as a series of sprints—fully engaging for a period of time and then fully disengaging and seeking renewal before jumping back into the fray to face whatever challenges confront us.”

After the race, we must recharge. In fact, the concept was built into our Sales Convention this year. At one end of our Vendor and Exhibitor Showcase we placed a RECHARGE Lounge where attendees could enjoy massage chairs, take in the calming aromas of essential oils and simply relax before jumping back into the networking, learning and fun of our event.

Outside of conferences and meetings, this is a practice you can—and should—implement into your daily routine. When you’re working, set your phone or computer alarm to go off every hour during the day—that’s eight one-minute check-ins—and use the time to pause, reflect, recharge, recalibrate and refocus. (For the real estate agent on the go, you can do this while sitting in your car between appointments.)

To be a leader who is always fully engaged and charged up for your sprint, you must regularly disengage and recharge to prepare for the next race. Make time for those regular breaks during your day and once your work is through, find balance by shutting off your phone, closing your computer and doing something that relaxes you.

For me, recharging means listening to a book. I was recently asked by a reporter from The Wall Street Journal how I’ve been able to sustain so much energy and passion throughout my career and I told her it’s partly because I’m fired up by learning something new. (Another important part of the equation is my hard-working team. I told her I love what I do largely because of who I get to do it with.) Re-educating myself is relaxing and recharging because it combats the complacency of the everyday and fills my mind with new perspectives on ways I can help others achieve their goals. Learning, for me, is the best way I can recharge because it recalibrates my brain with insightful information.

So, what’s the message? However or whatever ���recharge” means to you—listening to your favorite music, reading a good book, taking a leisurely walk around your neighborhood—make it a priority in your schedule. When you do recharge, by the time your next “sprint” comes around, you’ll be fully and completely ready to give it your all and win.

March 16, 2018


By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me in the vibrant city of San Antonio for our 2018 Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Sales Convention. It was an incredible 36 hours of learning, growing, collaborating, networking, sharing, connecting and most importantly, celebrating. At Sales Convention, I have the opportunity to see people I may only have a chance to network with once a year. Together, we celebrated the success in our network – top agents, top teams, top brokerages – and we celebrated the growth and strategic direction of our brand.

The event kicked off Sunday morning with our broker pre-con meetings followed by our lively Vendor and Exhibitor Showcase. Then, Monday morning was General Session Day 1. Throughout every presentation, we celebrated Sales Convention’s official theme of innovation and explored the concept as a way to create balance between high tech and high touch, the old and time-tested with the shiny and new. I was honored to deliver a keynote about the state of our current real estate union (and where it’s going), which was followed by a keynote on marketing in our attention economy, given by Chris Stuart, SVP of Business Development and Operations at HSF Affiliates.

After General Session, it was off to celebrate our minds, with University courses from world-class speakers and coaches. Finally, Monday night we celebrated, Texas style, at The Rock on Rodeo, where attendees enjoyed a great concert by GRAMMY-award-winning band, Little Big Town.

On Tuesday, we began the day with awards and a deeper dive into our marketing initiatives. If you were at General Session you’d know it was an ode to celebration, complete with acapella singers, joyous award winners and even a Broadway star who serenaded our five-, ten-, fifteen-, twenty-, and thirty-year Legends. The day continued with many more breakout sessions and I was thrilled to see a packed house for my own session, “Mr. Say and Mr. Do.” The session was a discussion with Allan Dalton, a new member of our HSF Affiliates executive team and the former CEO of realtor.com.

Finally, we ended Sales Convention in celebratory form with our Comedy Connection to benefit the Sunshine Kids, where famed comedians had the crowd laughing throughout the night. Raising money for the Sunshine Kids is a cause I will forever celebrate.

In fact, if you haven’t already guessed, celebration is the theme of today’s post because too often leaders forget just how important it can be. Your team and brokerage’s accomplishments deserve recognition. Any achievement, no matter how big or how small, deserves to be celebrated.

When you celebrate your success, you’re inspired to achieve more of it. And when you celebrate success among colleagues and friends, you connect more deeply, forge stronger relationships and build the kind of positive culture that allows for sustainable success. There’s nothing wrong with having fun. If you can do it while also working incredibly hard to achieve your goals, it means you’re striking the right kind of balance in your life. Because to celebrate is to remember the good; it’s a chance to refocus our energies from whatever challenges we face on the road to professional success and recall how very far we’ve come.

So, what’s the message? It’s one I was reminded of in San Antonio and hope you’ll take to heart the rest of this year and beyond. Celebration, just like the kind on display at Sales Convention, is in essence the reinforcement of motivation that carries us through to the next achievement. As Oprah Winfrey once famously said, “The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.”

March 7, 2018


By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me first in Northern California and next in San Antonio, where preparations are underway for the 2018 Sales Convention, which commences Sunday, March 4. Our theme this year, as you know, is innovation, and I’m honored to be delivering a keynote speech about the definition of innovation and the ways in which innovation is—and should be—ever-present in our businesses and lives.

As a preface to what I’ll soon be saying onstage, one of the main questions I’ll seek to answer is how we as an organization can strike the appropriate balance between high-tech and high-touch to propel our brokerage network and its members forward. How can we juxtapose an ever-evolving digital landscape with a growing renaissance to connect beyond the computer screen and the smartphone to add much-needed humanity back into our personal interactions?

It’s interesting to think about how we can align our core values at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices—trust, integrity, stability and longevity—with this current information age of social media, big data and artificial intelligence. Innovation, I believe, is mistakenly coupled with technological advancements but really that’s not what the term encompasses. As Merriam-Webster defines it, innovation is actually “the introduction of something new.”

Can that new thing be an app? A system? A software enhancement? Of course. But it can also be a new way of thinking, a new ideology and a new philosophy that exists solely within our minds, offline and away from the glare of a laptop or iPad. Innovation might mean a new way to engage on Facebook just as it might mean a new way to engage as human beings in society. That’s why I’m happy we chose “innovation” as our theme. It’s broad reaching and a bit misused.

In real estate, the false application of innovation—as a strictly technological term—is troubling, especially for an industry focused on human interaction and genuine connection. (There’s that high-tech mixing with high-touch idea I referenced earlier.) Innovative technology should enhance and optimize our engagement with others but it should never, ever replace it. Artificial intelligence should bring us closer to the consumers who we can help buy or sell homes but it cannot be the very thing that buys or sells the home for them.

No matter if we come into contact with a prospective client on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat or through a YouTube video, we still have to meet and allow them to see in us the fundamental values—trust, integrity, stability, longevity—that are at the cornerstone of our Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices brand. An app cannot sympathize with a stressed-out first-time homebuyer. An app will never be able to negotiate passionately on behalf of a seller or express how beautiful the morning light pours into the newly renovated kitchen of a home for sale.

So, what’s the message? When you think about innovation, I hope your mind doesn’t wander to a scrolling screen replete with tweets and photos. I hope you understand innovation as an ever-evolving process to create a better consumer experience that’s trustworthy, effective and real. Technology must work in our favor but it cannot surpass the greatest value we bring to the real estate industry: Us. But more on all that when I speak in San Antonio …

March 1, 2018


By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in Irvine, CA at our HSF Affiliates headquarters for alignment sessions and meetings with the team. As we prepare for our upcoming Sales Convention in San Antonio, I can’t help but catch a bit of the Olympics buzz going on across the country as I watch world-class athletes get ready to race. The Olympic competitors are all shining examples of leaders—hard working, focused, motivated and committed to a single Wildly Important Goal: Winning the gold.

Some Olympians will leave Pyeongchang, South Korea victorious, with a brand-new gold medal swinging around their necks; others may emerge from the games empty-handed or, like U.S. skier Lindsey Vonn, may be returning with a medal ... just not the one they’d hoped for and worked incessantly to receive.

Vonn ended her Olympic career Wednesday after she disqualified for the slalom stage of the women’s combined and overall, earned one medal: A bronze in the downhill.

“I’ve been injured so many times that the fact I’m even here is a victory in itself,” she told reporters after the race. “As a racer, as a person, I have to remember that as well because I do want to win and I’m usually not satisfied with a bronze. In this situation, I think I can be very happy with what I’ve accomplished.”

Vonn’s optimism is inspiring and a powerful lesson in humility and grace. The triumphs, the gold medals, the accolades—all that is great and motivating—but it isn’t really how we grow, learn and improve. In order to get better, we must face friction, miss a few turns, stumble on the track. In order to reach a higher level of performance, we must first examine and understand why we were miring in the low.

For Vonn, this is expected to be her last Olympics race but for us, the onlookers and fans, we can take her final underwhelming Olympics stint as an example of how to not only lose with dignity but also how to take those losses and turn them into opportunities for growth.

So, what’s the message? Lose the battle, win the war, I always say. And, sometimes victory isn’t what you thought it was. Sometimes, it’s far grander than a single medal or a one-time win. Even if you leave a race in second, third or last place, know every instance that knocks you down is a chance to pick yourself back up and grow even stronger from the tough experience. Just like the United States Women’s Hockey Team, which defeated four-time-running Olympic-champion Canada last night in a shootout victory to claim the gold medal.

February 23, 2018


By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me first in Dallas to rehearse for the 2018 Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Sales Convention and next in Northern California where I continue to get ready for our upcoming event, happening March 4-6 in San Antonio. Our theme this year is “Innovation” and the topic plays well with the serious preparation happening for Sales Convention.

In my mind, innovation and change cannot happen unless you’re fully and totally prepared for the changes taking place. It’s always interesting to me when something major is happening—a big change, the launch of an innovative endeavor—and people wish you “good luck” with regards to this new development. Of course, the well wishes are always appreciated (as leaders, we must forever be humble and grateful for the support we’re given) but luck in the context of effective leadership is an interesting thing to study.

What is luck anyway? As my good friend Dwight Clark, former All-Pro wide receiver for the San Francisco 49ers and five-time Super Bowl champion reiterates often, “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” (On a side note, as I write this post to you now, I’m preparing to meet him for lunch.) In other words, when opportunity knocks and luck stands at your threshold, you must know exactly how to open the door and what to do when luck is standing there. A prepared leader knows how to shake luck���s hand—with a firm handshake, of course—and then is ready to make things happen.

When an opportunity is missed, when luck comes knocking and no one is home to answer the door, we can attribute this to a leader’s insufficient preparation. Simply put: An opportunity arrived and he or she couldn’t capitalize. It’s an unfortunate circumstance that not only affects the leader but also affects every member of the leader’s team. Preparation is like that—a trickle-down entity with the power to allow companies and leaders to very quickly rise or fall. If a leader isn’t prepared, how can he or she expect team members to be prepared?

There are countless examples throughout history of successful leaders championing the benefits of preparation. Centuries ago, Benjamin Franklin said, “By failing to prepare, you prepare to fail.” Muhammad Ali explained, “Expect the best. Prepare for the worst.” And Zig Ziglar said, “You were born to win, but to be a winner, you must plan to win, prepare to win, and expect to win.” And finally, Confucius once said, “Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure.”

So, what’s the message? It’s difficult to talk innovation without first talking preparation. In order for change to take hold in a way that’s sustainable and beneficial, you must first put in the groundwork and prepare. Just like a house cannot stand without a solid foundation, preparation is the groundwork we must lay before we can build something exciting, refreshing and completely new. But more on all things innovation coming to San Antonio soon …

February 16, 2018


By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me first in Lancaster, PA to meet with the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Homesale Realty leadership team. Lancaster is one of the oldest inland towns in the United States, an area rich with history and urban charm.

From Pennsylvania, it was off to St. Petersburg, FL to attend Real Living Connection 2018. I was grateful to deliver a keynote presentation to the group on artificial intelligence and the importance of staying relevant. Bob McAdams, president of Real Living, and my good friend Allan Dalton, Real Living COO and former realtor.com CEO, are doing a fantastic job keeping the brand not only on top of industry trends but also ahead of the game.

And speaking of game, there was quite a big one this past Sunday, Super Bowl LII. As you know, I’m a longtime San Francisco 49ers fan but I’m also a New England Patriots fan. If you remember, last year I wrote my Thoughts on Leadership post about Tom Brady and the Pats’ stunning overtime victory. As I explained, “It wasn’t just the play-making that was the active ingredient in a New England championship; it was also a mindset maintained by the entire team that while they might be down on the scoreboard they were far from out.”

Honestly, when Tom Brady had the ball in the fourth quarter during Sunday’s game, down five points with two timeouts and two-and-a-half minutes remaining on the clock, I thought surely we’d see some of his signature heroics and the Pats would eek out yet another win.

But as you know that didn’t happen. Brady fumbled. The Philadelphia Eagles regained the ball and the Super Bowl championship was basically decided. The Eagles would go on to win the game 41-33.

It’s a testament to a team characterized by hard work and grit that the Eagles pulled off the win. They were, without question, the underdogs.

This was the first time in franchise history that the Eagles would hold the Lombardi Trophy, the first Super Bowl win ever for a team that not only historically struggled but this year, faced tough odds. The Eagles lost their best running back, their signal-caller on defense, their All-Pro left tackle and most damaging of all, their MVP-candidate quarterback Carson Wentz, who tore his ACL in December.

When Wentz couldn’t play, Nick Foles, the Eagles’ backup quarterback was given the chance of a lifetime. Prior to stepping out as Eagles’ quarterback, Foles had a somewhat spotty six-year career with a mix of highs and lows. In 2016, he even considered retiring and giving up the game. He decided to stick around and signed a two-year contract in March with the Eagles to back up Wentz. When Wentz was injured, Foles stepped in and ever since proved he was an underestimated underdog and talented player.

When Foles got the win on Sunday, he became just the tenth backup quarterback in NFL history to lead his team to a Super Bowl win.

At a press conference following the game, Foles delivered these words of wisdom: “The big thing is don’t be afraid to fail. In our society today, with Instagram and Twitter, it’s a highlight reel. It’s all the good things. Then when you look at it, you think—if you had a rough day or your life’s not as good as that—that you’re failing. I think failure is a part of life. That’s a part of building character and growing. Without failure, who would you be? I wouldn’t be up here if I hadn’t fallen thousands of times.”

So, what’s the message? History is replete with examples of inspiring underdogs. Seabiscuit, for instance, was a small racing horse that became an unlikely champion and symbol of hope to many Americans during the Great Depression. He was undersized, knobby-kneed and loved to spend time sleeping and eating. And yet, in 1937, Seabiscuit won 11 of his 15 races and was the year’s leading prize-winner in the U.S. The following year, he was named American Horse of the Year.

Consider also General Patton’s Third Army in World War II, an extra special example to me because my dad was in Patton’s Third Army. Patton had only a fraction of the manpower of the opposing German troops but his army had undeniable drive and that motivation propelled them forward to advance across occupied Europe and stun the German offense. The battle record of the Third Army is the most telling. The official account, the Third Army’s after action report begins: “In the nine months and eight days of the campaign, the Third U.S. Army could only be measured in superlatives for not only did the Army’s achievements astonish world but its deeds in terms of figures challenged the imagination.”

My dad, Paul Blefari, with his two Purple Hearts given for serving heroically in Patton’s Third Army.

There are many amazing statistics yet I will only give you one. The enemy had 1,443,888 casualties to the Third Army, which incurred 160,692 casualties.

This incredible perseverance is reminiscent of the Eagles’ fierce will to win, a collective effort by a group rightly termed the underdogs. Never give up, might be the best message to take away. You must believe, rally, persevere and fight against the constrictive labels others place upon you. Remember that when a strong team works together to achieve a common goal, the impossible can suddenly become possible. “An individual can make a difference,” said Doug Pederson, Eagles’ head coach, “but a team makes a miracle.”

February 09, 2018


By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me first in Northern California then off to Denver for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Innovative Real Estate’s Appreciation Night with Broker/Owners Scott and Lora Nordby and members of the Innovative Real Estate team. It was a fantastic event and I’m thankful I packed appropriately—temperatures in Denver dropped to 29 degrees!

Gino Blefari, president and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, with Scott and Lora Nordby, broker/owners at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Innovative Real Estate in Denver.

From Denver I traveled to Palm Springs for AREAA’s Leadership Summit. (To give you a temperature comparison, it was 83 degrees yesterday in Palm Springs and 90 degrees today.) I was fortunate to speak on a panel about leadership while at the AREAA conference, but more on that to come …

Gino Blefari, president and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, at the AREAA Leadership Summit in Palm Springs.

From AREAA I traveled to Anaheim and spent time at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties’ Reimagine 2018 event with Mary Lee Blaylock, California Properties president and CEO, and the California Properties team. (Temperatures in Anaheim were in the mid-80s today if you’re wondering.)

Mary Lee Blaylock, president and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties, takes the stage at Reimagine 2018 in Anaheim, Calif.

Mary Lee is a fantastic example of inspiring, innovative leadership, just the kind I spoke about at AREAA in Palm Springs. On the panel, I was joined by Cerita Battles, senior vice president and diverse segments national sales manager for Wells Fargo Home Mortgage and Jason Gesing, CEO of eXp Realty. The panel was expertly moderated by Randy Char, president of Char Luxury Real Estate and 2018 AREAA National President. The first question he asked me was: “What advice would you give someone going into a leadership position for the first time?”I told him and the group to lead by example. I said it was the most basic rule of leadership yet the one that is the most violated. Think about kids. Many times when their parents speak to them and they don’t say anything, they just observe. There’s that famous line, “monkey see, monkey do” and it’s not “monkey hear, monkey do” for a reason.I also told them to remember this: The leader is always on stage. In addition, I said the No. 1 impediment of any organization rests in the hands of the leader. There aren’t any exceptions to this rule. That’s why the greatest leadership challenge is leading yourself; leaders are always difficult followers but you must learn as a leader to be a great follower.I also said leaders must be the most disciplined, the most consistent, the most humble, the most serving, the most persistent, the most authentic, the most service-oriented and the most personally developed. I used the often-quoted phrase, “The speed of the leader determines the rate of the pack” to explain that people don’t go as fast as they can, they only go as fast as the leader.I remember when Usain Bolt won the 100-meter race during the Olympics but what most people don’t remember is that the second-, third- and fourth-place runners all broke the world record during that race. When they were asked why they all ran so fast they basically said, “We were just trying to catch him.”So, what’s the message? In order to be a great leader—whether you’re just starting out in a leadership role or have been leading a team for decades—you must focus on the things you can control like your mindset, your ability to lead by example, your discipline, your focus, your authenticity and ability to connect. Because just like temperature, the environment in which we lead is constantly in flux and we must navigate these changes and challenges as we strive to accomplish our goals.February 02, 2018


By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me first in San Diego for Mike Ferry’s Production Retreat. It was an incredibly motivating event and I was fortunate to attend with my good friend, Allan Dalton, former CEO of realtor.com and current COO of Real Living Real Estate. The enthusiasm of the crowd was electric!

Gino Blefari, president and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices with Allan Dalton, COO of Real Living Real Estate in San Diego for Mike Ferry’s Production Retreat.

Next, it was off to Atlanta for the 2018 kickoff event and awards show for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Georgia Properties, led by Dan Forsman, president and CEO. I have to say, I’ve attended many kickoffs in my career and this was one for the books … from the passion of the 1,200+ agents in attendance, the elaborate set-up on the stage, to the organization and structure of the event, everything was executed perfectly to set up the Georgia Properties team for an incredible year.

At the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Georgia Properties kickoff and awards event.

At the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Georgia Properties kickoff and awards event.

From Atlanta I headed to New York City for Inman Connect 2018, a conference that brings together more than 4,000 real estate professionals to learn, grow and of course, connect. While in New York, I had the opportunity to spend some time at the VaynerMedia office and at the headquarters for The Wall Street Journal. (I can’t say exactly what we were doing there but I can say you should attend Sales Convention and find out.)

In Manhattan, I also had a chance to meet with Ellie Johnson, president of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New York Properties and speak with her team. She’s a fantastic, visionary leader and her agents all possess that same drive to succeed. I was honored to deliver my mindset routine talk during my visit to the New York Properties office and it reminded me of the importance of a good morning routine, no matter how busy your schedule gets. Having a regular morning routine gives structure to your life—even in the whirlwind of delayed flights, long meetings, traffic jams—and sets you up for a great day. As Marcus Aurelius once famously said, “When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive—to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.”A recent survey conducted by Yahoo! Finance asked 17 CEOs what time they start their morning. Almost 80% said they wake up at 5:30 a.m. or earlier. (I am in that group for sure.)Another commonality among those surveyed was that more than 70% of the CEOs said they perform exercise in the morning. A solid morning routine always involves physical activity as well as a healthy diet. You must keep your body as fit as you keep your mind.So, what’s the message? As we dive head-first into accomplishing our Wildly Important Goals of 2018, let’s all pledge to keep that all-important structure in our busy schedules by implementing a good morning routine that sets us up for a productive, successful day ahead. You’ll find that very quickly, days turn into weeks, weeks turn into months and in no time at all, if you maintain a regular morning routine that begins right when you wake up, your entire year will be filled with the kind of motivating energy you need to achieve your goals.January 26, 2018

#148 Thoughts on Leadership: Facebook, Vision and Social Trends

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels first found me in Irvine, at our HSF Affiliates headquarters office for alignment sessions with prospective brokerages, a leadership meeting and a Town Hall with our team. From there it was off to San Diego this Thursday afternoon, where I was honored to speak at my friend Danny Morel’s Vision 2018 event at the Lowes Coronado Resort in San Diego. Additional speakers included Gary Acosta, co-founder and CEO of NAHREP; Cheri Tree, founder and CEO of BANKCODE; Mel Robbins, an international bestselling author; and of course, Danny Morel, renowned author, coach, trainer and host for Vision 2018.The two-day event is designed to show real estate agents how to build clarity in a business plan, grow sales and income, and create raving fans who buy from the same agent repeatedly and for years to come. The conference also focused heavily on social media and the techniques agents MUST embrace to win listings and grow their businesses.The emphasis on social media at Vision 2018 comes at just the right time, as news broke earlier this week that Facebook was changing its content algorithm to show users more posts from friends and family and less content from brands. Under this new algorithm, users will see a friend’s puppy photo over news about your new listing in town.How can we, as leaders, navigate this new personal relationship-first model of social content while also allowing our business page posts to be seen by an audience who cares? Well, an entire book could be written in answer to that very question but I will offer two areas of resolution: 1. Mobile and 2. Paid advertisements. Put these two concepts together and you start to form an effective strategy for combating the changing ways in which Facebook users will be presented social media content now and well into the foreseeable future.In a newly released report by Facebook, U.S. mobile ad is projected to grow to within 10% of TV spend in 2018, and the lines will cross soon after, with mobile ad spend surpassing traditional television advertising. (In fact, if you watch NFL games now, you’ll see the network still airs the live game feed at the top of your TV screen while the commercial runs. The NFL knows the waning effectiveness of TV ads and has devised this strategy to keep fans engaged during commercials.)As advertising switches from TV to mobile, how can businesses adapt and thrive in this new environment? Here are the key takeaways from the Facebook report, which seeks to address that very concern:

  1. Experimenting with Instagram story ads. According to the report, “Stories provide the benefit of audio and visual movement to grab attention, but require the simplicity of a print ad. There’s also an interesting opportunity to sequence stories to create a more engaging narrative. Since organic stories are usually shot on phones, [story] ads don’t always have to be highly produced to be successful.”
  2. Two seconds spent watching an ad on mobile has a completely different meaning from those same two seconds spent watching an ad on TV. The duration of time spent on an ad is not a good proxy for its value.
  3. It’s OK to start small. If you’re overwhelmed with social media and social marketing, it’s OK to have a small budget, test what works (and what doesn’t) and grow from there. As the famous saying goes, a journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step.
  4. Social media evolves quickly and businesses must iterate, evaluate and recalibrate their social media strategy in order to connect. What works today might not work tomorrow. What works tomorrow won’t yet work today. As the report says, “Embrace the journey of unlearning and learning.”
  5. On Instagram, video that looks organic performs best. Be quick and to the point but also be authentic. There’s no need to spend thousands of dollars on a video; if your message and delivery is genuine, users will listen and engage.
So, what’s the message? If we had to aggregate all the information shared onstage at Vision 2018 and distill it down to a single principle for success, it would go something like this: It’s no longer cute or fun to be on social media. Social media is serious and if you aren’t embracing a mobile-first social media strategy in your business plan for 2018, you can bet some other competitor will. As the Facebook report explained, “Mobile is fast becoming the primary media consumption device, so there’s no time to waste.”January 19, 2018

#147 Thoughts on Leadership: Customer Services Matters for Success

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in Northern California, taking meetings, participating in conference calls and digging into the second week of 2018. As an organization, we have very specific Wildly Important Goals (WIGS) to accomplish this year and we’re laser-focused on achieving them.As part of our 2018 goal alignment, we’re making several changes including switching the name of what was once our Affiliate Assistance Hotline (AAH) to Customer Success Team.I’ve long been a proponent of offering the highest quality customer service value. In fact, as I always ask: Do you know what the single, toughest thing for the competition to duplicate is? Not just “service” but extraordinary quality service, convenience and value. And do you know why? Because extraordinary quality service, convenience and value requires the most effort. And you know as well as I do that most companies and most people are not willing to put forth the extra effort. Do you know why? Because it’s hard. But it’s the hard that makes you great. It’s the willingness to do the hard that makes you great. It’s the willingness to do the hard that separates you from the competition.So, now, AAH becomes Customer Success Team and a department created 20 years ago is given a label that more accurately describes what they do. In the beginning, the AAH team was created to give customers the ability to have a single point of contact for all things related to their franchise. Before AAH, a broker, a marketing director, an agent would call someone at the corporate office, be redirected to someone else and then potentially speak with a third person before an answer could be reached.Another goal of AAH was—and still is—to offload the day-to-day tasks and training that brokers are simply too busy to pursue. We know a broker must spend his or her time running the business; we’re here to take care of the whirlwind of the other everyday challenges. We’re here to ensure your success.Our Customer Success Team is also always evolving, based on the changing needs of our industry and our network members. In Feb. 2017, we implemented live chat and the initiative was even more popular than anticipated.Here are some impressive stats:

  • We take about 1,000 individual chats a month, with an average of 60 chats per day.
  • We receive 150 calls per day and about 3,000 to 4,000 emails per month.
  • In this past year, we received more than 70,000 total inquiries.
  • If you call our Customer Success Team, it takes less than two seconds to get someone live on the phone. There is no such thing as getting stuck on hold. (For reference, Zappos, known as one of the best customer service companies, according to Forbes, has a 25-second time between dialing and getting in touch with a representative.)
In addition to dealing with our high volume of inquiries, our Customer Success Team is staffed with employees who work right from our Irvine headquarters and we’re available Monday through Friday, 13 hours each day. Most team members have been with our company for several years and all are expertly familiar with our products and web-based offerings. They also possess a keen sense of empathy and care. When you call our team members, they address you by name and stay on the phone or chat or email with you until your problem is fully resolved. Your success matters to us; that’s again why we give the department a name befitting its mission.From a practical standpoint, this fun, friendly and intensely effective method of customer service is very much like the lauded customer service representatives at Zappos, often making headlines for their warm, personable interactions with customers. A recent Forbes article revealed that in 2017, the customer service team at Zappos gave out 380 gifts, including a bouquet of flowers to one woman who explained that she had to return a pair of boots because her father passed away and couldn’t wear them.That level of concern and compassion can be found in our very own Customer Success Team, too. In fact, when our education team or business consultants are out in the field, speaking to a brokerage or holding a training session, they’ll often call our Customer Success Team and without warning, put the call on speaker so the entire room can hear. Then they let participants fire off questions about anything and everything related to our tools, products and services. The unplanned Q&A always goes off without a hitch.So, what’s the message? It’s of course about customer service and how it is one of the single-greatest competitive advantages and differentiators to any successful business but on a more personal note, it’s also about the dedication and proficiency of our own Customer Success Team. In the coming days and months, you’ll start to see this new name on our marketing materials and Intranet pages. You’ll hear it if you call in with a question. You’ll see it on the email signature if you write to us with a concern. And now, when you ring us and an employee picks up the phone, explaining in that familiar, friendly way that he or she is part of our Customer Success Team, you’ll know exactly why we made the change.January 12, 2018

#146 Thoughts on Leadership: A Morning Routine and Collaboration

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in Scottsdale, AZ for the Executive Leadership Conference put on by Berkshire Hathaway Energy, where the theme was “collaborate.” I’m excited to attend this meeting not only because I perceive collaboration to be one of the cornerstones of great leadership—we cannot achieve our success alone—but also because the conference wrapped up with Walter Scott, who sits on the Berkshire Hathaway Energy board, answering questions from Berkshire Hathaway Energy CEO Greg Abel and audience members. Scott has been named by Forbes as one of the world’s richest people and is a lifelong friend of Warren Buffett.There were many takeaways from his Q&A but the one that stuck with me was the three most important things that Walter told his kids to cherish: 1. Health (don’t do anything to hurt it). 2. Education (once you have it, you have it for life). 3. Community. Be a giver and not a taker. Be part of the community and understand that once you have acquired great things it’s your responsibility to give back.Another reason why I’m happy to be in Scottsdale has to do with legendary swim coach Bob Bowman, who helped Michael Phelps win his record-setting 28 Olympic medals and was the men's swimming head coach for Team USA at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Bowman is currently the head swimming coach for the Arizona State Sun Devils and through mutual connections, I was able to have dinner with him and also visit the ASU aquatic complex.Bowman has long inspired me by his persistence on the importance of a morning routine. In fact, one could argue that Michael Phelps’ dedication to his routines directly correlated to his status as the most successful and most decorated Olympian of all time. Bowman started working with Phelps when he was just a child but recognized early on Phelps could be a champion with the right training and the right routine. Their long history working together brings us back to the theme of collaboration from the Berkshire Hathaway Energy conference. Phelps followed a morning routine and race-day routine that included a hearty diet, stretches and getting in the right mindset for success. He also trained his mind with positive affirmations and reviewed his goals daily. Phelps once said, “I have my goals somewhere I can see them, so when I get out of bed I know I’m waking up to work on what I’m trying to achieve.”There’s science behind regular routines that create positive mindsets, too. A study published in Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging found that subjects who meditated for about 30 minutes a day for eight weeks had measurable changes in gray-matter density in parts of the brain associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress. And Robert Emmons, a psychologist at UC Davis, conducted research to show that keeping a regular gratitude journal can significantly increase well-being and positive emotions.So, what’s the message? Embrace collaboration and follow a morning routine with diligence and dedication if you want to find greater success. The philosophy not only works for Olympic athletes but also for leaders in any field. My own routine involves taking my M.E.D.S.—Meditation, Exercise, Diet and Sleep. This routine helps me with my keystone habits that create small wins. I know this helps prepare me to have a great day. (If you’d like a copy of my morning routine, I’d be happy to share it with you. Email me: ginoblefari@hsfranchise.com.) And when it comes to maintaining your morning routine, always remember the wise words of Artistotle: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.”January 05, 2018

#145 Thoughts on Leadership: Goals for the New Year

By Gino Blefari

“When it comes to setting goals, the law of diminishing returns is as real as the law of gravity.” – The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey and Jim HulingThis week my travels find me in Northern California, finishing up meetings and planning for the new year.It’s an age-old tradition: The clock strikes midnight. It’s Jan. 1 and we mentally run through our list of resolutions for the new year, ready to conquer all of them. And by New Year’s Eve of the following year, we celebrate our accomplishments, satisfied with the fact that we’ve achieved every single goal we set out to attain, right? Well, maybe.Goals are important and you know I’m the first person to advocate for their creation and adherence. However, if set incorrectly, goals can be just that, simple words written down on a page, devoid of any meaning or purpose. So, how do you set goals you can actually accomplish?When you’re setting goals, first make sure they’re your Wildly Important Goals. To discover what these are, you have to ask yourself: If everything else stayed the same, what would have the biggest impact on what you want to achieve? For example, let’s say you own a real estate company and your goal is to grow it from X to Y by when. You might ask yourself, what are the two or three things that will have the greatest impact on getting me from X to Y by when? Those answers are your Wildly Important Goals.Here’s another goal-setting trick: Set fewer goals and you’ll see better results. In truth, nobody has the ability to multitask. Studies show that human beings are genetically wired to do only one thing at a time with excellence. For goal-setting, this translates into the careful selection of no more than two to three goals you’ll accomplish in the new year. Observe the following chart from The 4 Disciplines of Execution:

Number of Goals 2-3 4-10 11-20
Goals Achieved with Excellence 2-3 1-2 0

So, what’s the message? As you can see, the more goals you set, the less likely you are to achieve them. The concept isn’t brand new, it’s been used for years by successful business leaders around the world, but it is often overlooked. As Steve Jobs once said, “Quality is better than quantity. One home run is much better than two doubles.” Another favorite quote from Zig Ziglar, author, salesman and speaker: “A goal properly set is halfway achieved.”It’s always good to keep goal-setting in perspective. Here’s to a happy, prosperous and successful new year,GinoDecember 29, 2017


By Gino Blefari

Everyone knows there’s no such thing as a gingerbread cookie-cutter template for the perfect leader. All leaders are intrinsically different yet they do share common traits: They always inspire, they motivate, they lead by example, they spread joy and cheer to every member of their team.And when we think about fantastic leaders, one unconventional yet universal example comes to mind: Old St. Nick! There’s no denying St. Nick has got a lot on his cookie-filled plate but he handles it all with finesse and experience year after year. Here are a few reasons why St. Nick is the epitome of a great leader: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 lists 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 assemble in the week ahead. (“This week I made 10 nutcrackers and five dolls and next week I�����ll make twelve nutcrackers and seven dolls …”)He’s jolly. Leadership is about maintaining a positive mindset and you can’t get much more positive than the affable, always smiling and always laughing St. Nick.He’s a master at time management. Deliver presents to children all across the world? Check. Do it all before the sun rises and the hot cocoa is on the stove? Check. If his time isn’t managed properly, he can’t succeed at his job, shimmying down chimneys and delivering presents all across the world in the span of a single night.He knows how to delegate. Not only is St. Nick a great leader but he also manages a huge staff of elves! Each one has an assigned task and St. Nick knows that the holiday season can’t happen alone. He trusts his staff and they in turn respect him. Each elf has his or her Wildly Important Goals and St. Nick understands he can’t dictate but he can veto if they��re not in alignment with St. Nick’s overall WIG.He’s humble. St. Nick understands that smugness comes before arrogance and arrogance is the precursor of disaster. St. Nick once told me once you think you know it all your slide to mediocrity has already begun. And St. Nick certainly never confesses to knowing it all. Each year, children write down the presents they’d like to receive and each year, he delivers on their promise. He never assumes to know what they want; he relies on them to write out the message.So what’s the message? Examples of great leadership can come from anywhere and everywhere but the reason St. Nick is such a great leader is because we never even think of him as one. He’s reliable, he’s there, he has all the qualities of a great leader without shouting it from the rooftops, (he prefers chimneys anyway). He’s also relatable and transforms the holiday season into one we can all enjoy, whether we’re hoping for a brand-new toy or just to spend a few days with close family and friends.No matter what this holiday season means to you, my hope is that it’s one filled with peace, prosperity and joy for all.Happy Holidays,GinoDecember 22, 2017

#143 Thoughts on Leadership: Networking at Holiday Parties

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in Irvine, CA at our HSF Affiliates HQ for meetings, and for our annual HSF Affiliates pancake breakfast and holiday party. (Scroll down to the bottom for video from the breakfast.) We’re celebrating an incredible team I’m proud to be a part of, with members as hard-working as they are dedicated to achieving our organization’s Wildly Important Goals. It’s with deep gratitude that I find myself among such esteemed colleagues and as I always say, “I love what I do largely because of who I get to do it with.”The HSF Affiliates holiday party is one of many I’ll be attending throughout December and as I meet friends old and new, re-connecting with acquaintances and creating relationships, I’m reminded that these gatherings are great opportunities to build and strengthen your network. If you think about it, there may actually be no better time than during the festive, fun holidays to do some serious networking.Here are a few ways to do it:Be friendly, maintain eye contact with guests and project a positive self-image. When you exhibit respect and confidence, everything else falls into place. Remember, four factors create a positive first impression: your smile, your dress, your handshake and your vocabulary.Smile! This one may seem simple but too often people walk around a party with a grumpy look on their faces. Does anyone want to do business with someone who’s grumpy? (Also, it’s a party … why not smile?) The key to a great, authentic smile is to think pleasant thoughts.Put yourself out there, even if it seems risky. Don’t be afraid to network with anyone and everyone! Intimidation is natural but push past the risk of rejection and make the connection. Have you ever taken a risk and succeeded? Didn’t it seem like less of a risk after the event was over than before you were willing to take it? The reward always far outweighs the risk.Find common ground. The sooner you can find something in common with the person you’re talking to, the sooner all barriers will disappear and you can converse with sincerity and candor. Do you both own Golden Doodles? Enjoy the same TV shows? Have similar hobbies? Common-ground dialog will breed genuine conversation. And speaking of genuine conversation …When talking with guests at a holiday party, listen more than you speak. As bestselling author Stephen Covey once said, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply."So, what’s the message? This year during holiday parties, of course take time to celebrate your wins but also view the gatherings as opportunities to network and build your business. Forge connections, meet members of your community and find friends you never knew you had. Then, by the time the New Year rolls around, your future will look especially shiny and bright.December 15, 2017

#142 Thoughts on Leadership: High-Performance, Great Success

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in San Diego for Darren Hardy’s High-Performance Forum, a private master class engineered specifically for entrepreneurs and business leaders committed to building high-growth, high-impact and high-performance companies. I’m fortunate to call Darren not only my friend but also my mentor, and I was able to spend some quality one-on-one time with him during our lunch break.I’m here because I’m a firm believer in continuous improvement and always being a student of your business and your life. As I say, once you think you know it all, your slide to mediocrity has already begun. This entire High-Performance Forum is centered on this idea, the concept that if you aren’t changing, growing and thinking about your company in new ways, then it’s hard to imagine how you’ll find sustainable success in the future amid the constant evolution of your industry.As additional motivation, the event sits in the shadow of University of California, San Diego, a beacon of higher learning in greater San Diego. How do I know the event is near this university? Because I spent 15 minutes of my lunch break eating—those of you who know me know I’m a quick eater—and the rest working toward my goal of a minimum of 10,000 steps per day while on the road. I walked to the coffee shop on campus as students buzzed around the expansive buildings, going from class to class, sitting under trees and studying for their finals. It was a perfect reflection of the atmosphere of education and betterment to be found across the street at Darren’s event.High-Performance Forum kicked off on day one with an introduction from Darren followed by a session on sales and marketing breakthroughs, inspired by some of the world’s greatest leaders and companies—Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg and Nike’s Phil Knight. Day two continued this discussion and day three was all about the systems and strategic planning involved in significantly growing your business. Remember, failing to plan is planning to fail!So, what’s the message? Even during the festive holiday season, you can still take time to better yourself and your business. Evolution is key. Professional development is ongoing and important. And the changes you make don’t necessarily need to be far-reaching or grandiose. Even small adjustments to your everyday regimen can have a big impact when compounded over weeks, months and years. As Darren says, “You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.”December 8, 2017

#141 Thoughts on Leadership: Giving Thanks to Dwight “The Catch” Clark

By Gino Blefari

“[Quarterback Joe] Montana … Looking … Looking … Throwing into the end zone … Clark caught it! ... It’s a madhouse at Candlestick …”This week my travels find me in Northern California, working and preparing to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with friends and family. I’m feeling particularly grateful this year not only for my wonderful family but also for the friends who enrich my life in ways inextricable, intangible and extraordinary.Leaders, as you know, are not born, they’re made, and the fabric of leaders is sewn from all the intelligent, inspiring people around them. One leader I’m thankful to call my close friend is Dwight “The Catch” Clark,” once an obscure, 10th-round draft pick in the 1979 NFL draft—the 249th player chosen—who went on to become Sports Illustrated’s NFL Player of the Year in 1982.I was lucky enough to be a San Francisco 49ers fan in the 1980s and watched my pal Dwight play for my favorite team. He’s the owner of five Super Bowl rings—two as a player and three in management—a two-time All Pro and caught 506 receptions in his career. But who knows if his great run would’ve ever happened if it wasn’t for that amazing Sunday in January of 1982 when “Too Tall” Jones and what seemed like the entire Dallas Cowboys defense was chasing 49ers quarterback Joe Montana and Dwight was trying to lose Cowboy’s defensive back Everson Walls running across the back of Candlestick Park’s end zone. The next moment would be memorialized in sports history forevermore: Dwight caught the winning touchdown pass thrown by Montana and the 49ers won the NFC Championship game that year.Now, I say I was lucky in the ‘80s to watch Dwight play but I’m even luckier now to share a friendship with him and find inspiration in everything he does. He’s a leader defined by perseverance, resiliency and an unwavering desire to reach out his hand and “Catch” for others. Earlier this year, Dwight announced he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Those same qualities of resiliency and perseverance are front and center as he fights the debilitating effects of ALS today.But he isn’t fighting alone. In fact, the entire 49ers family is right by his side, cheering him on as he fights such a difficult opponent. Part of that support comes by way of the Golden Heart Fund, established by the 49ers and Pro Football Hall of Fame owner Eddie DeBartolo, Jr. The fund assists former players during times of need. (If you feel, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, that you’d like to donate, please click here.)Other support comes by simply showing Dwight we—an entire town, an entire fan base—are there.Several weeks ago, on Oct. 22, Dwight was honored during halftime at Levi Stadium, when the 49ers took on the Cowboys, a testament to their beloved hero. And on Nov. 9, I was fortunate to accept an award on Dwight’s behalf at the SAP Center—he was inducted that day into the San Jose Sports Hall of Fame. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house as Dwight, who couldn’t make it to the ceremony, delivered a poignant video speech thanking his fans, his family and all those who’ve supported him along the way.“Now I’m praying for another Catch—a cure for this dreaded disease,” Dwight said with characteristic optimism. “I am praying for a research doctor out there with the equivalent arm of Joe Montana. You know that pattern, Doc. Just launch that cure like a Montana pass; I’ll be waiting again at the back of the end zone. I’ll even take a high one again just to make us both look good.”The greatness of Dwight—in addition to his historic play—is also found in his altruism. As Abraham Lincoln once said, “No man stands as tall as when he bends down to help a child.” And for me, when I think of that eternal quote, I think of Dwight Clark. I don’t think of the Catch that he had to jump so high to make I think of the many times I watched him bend over to help a child in need. You may not know this but Dwight was an integral force in helping the Intero Foundation, which provides resources to children in need, raise more than $4 million in grants and support.As Joe Montana explained in the highlight reel that played during Dwight’s induction ceremony: “He’s a people person, so helping people comes naturally to Dwight. You can just see it on his face. The ‘tell’ is all there.”So, what’s the message? Let’s pass this one to Dwight, and on Thanksgiving, recognize all those incredible friends in our lives who make everything that much better just by their mere existence. Thank you, Dwight, for all you’ve done to help those in need. Thank you for always putting others first and for brightening this world with your shining spirit of positivity. Now that you’re looking to us as you fight against ALS, know that we’re sending our love and prayers to you, a great and awe-inspiring leader who continues to field catches in the game of life, no matter what is thrown your way.

November 23, 2017

#140 Thoughts on Leadership: The Importance of Diversity

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me first in Irvine, CA for a Town Hall meeting at our HSF Affiliates HQ and next in Las Vegas for the Zillow Group Broker Forum at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. As I travel across the country and attend meetings led by some of our industry’s most powerful and innovative minds, I keep circling back to a theme prevalent in so many keynotes, panel discussions and coffee-break chats: diversity.At the Zillow Group Broker Forum, I spoke with Errol Samuelson, chief industry development officer for Zillow, who kicked off the event this morning with one of my favorite topics, “Evolving through Change” about ways to navigate today’s industry-wide changes and anticipate tomorrow’s opportunities. He said something that would put a smile on the face of Teresa Palacios Smith, our VP of Diversity and Inclusion. He told me, “If you look at the GDP [Gross Domestic Product] of U.S. Latinas and you put that GDP on a chart, it would be bigger than the GDP of India, Brazil, Italy and Canada. That’s how much wealth and buying power the Latino community has in the United States.”He also mentioned that Latinas make up 60% of all household creation in America. “They have an incredible buying power,” Samuelson explained. “So as real estate agent and brokers, we have to be focused on this demographic because it’s the future.”Another interesting stat Samuelson shared with me is that between 2015 and 2016, the number of homes sold to foreign buyers increased by 49% and Chinese buyers represent the biggest segment; 20% of homes bought by foreigners during that timeframe were purchased by the Chinese. He added, “The interesting thing is, the median home price for the typical American is about $253K. For a Chinese buyer, it’s $572K, so almost double.”The big takeaway here is that diversity permeates every aspect of the real estate business, from the consumer side—diverse groups contain tremendous buying power—and from the professional side. A real estate practitioner is not relegated to one specific prototype. Agents, brokers, managers … they’re as diverse and unique as the clients they serve.Just today, RISMedia published an article about how diversity in brokerages attracts more business. As the story explains—and as I completely agree—diversity is a necessity for success and one that’s written into the REALTORS® Code of Ethics. The Code states: “agents and brokers must treat all clients equally, regardless of their race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation or gender identity.”At HSF Affiliates, we’ve named Teresa Palacios Smith as our VP of Diversity & Inclusion to ensure that as we grow in size and number, diversity is at the forefront of not only what we do but also who we are.

Here’s more …

November 17, 2017

#139 Thoughts on Leadership: Michael Phelps, Winning and NAR

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels took me to Chicago and then on to Southern California but let’s talk about Chicago and the 2017 REALTORS® Conference & Expo. My conference experience actually began in a very unusual way. Let me explain …At exactly 7:22 a.m. –5:22 a.m. my time—I headed down to Starbucks for coffee, just as I do every morning to begin my usual routine. I was just waking up and had on a t-shirt and a bit of bed head when I arrived at Starbucks. (Hey, we’re always honest on this blog.) Anyway, there I am in line to get coffee when I recognized Michael Phelps was waiting right in front of me.As anyone who has seen my presentations might attest, I’m a big fan of the champion swimmer not only as a world-class, Olympic athlete but also as a shining paradigm for what you can achieve with a solid routine.Still, although I’m a fan, I didn’t want to bother him and said nothing even after noticing his presence; I know these celebrities like to just have a break and he was the keynote speaker at NAR, so his schedule must have been busy. However, a moment later, someone came up behind me and said, “Oh my gosh that’s Michael Phelps!” (Well, there goes his Starbucks anonymity.)The patron asked Michael for a picture and they started to take a selfie when I told them, “Look, let me make this easy for you, I’ll take the photo.”In the back of my mind was the law of reciprocity. I knew if I did this favor for them, they’d be more likely to agree to do something for me. I snapped the photo and then the patron took one with me and Michael Phelps.Now the story could’ve ended there (and it would’ve been pretty good) but it goes a bit deeper, and here I come back to that ever-present theme of serendipity, which tends to create twists and turns in life we would’ve never otherwise predicted. Upon returning to my hotel room, I received a call from a woman named Cecille Waller, who explains she had worked as an agent at Intero Real Estate Services, my former company, approximately four years ago.“Hi Gino, this is Cecille,” she said and recounted how she moved to Tempe, Arizona because her daughter swims on the swim team at Arizona State University. Bob Bowman, Michael Phelp’s former coach, happens to be her daughter’s current coach. We chatted for a bit and after, she sent me a series of texts about Bob Bowman and Michael Phelps. Cecille told me she saw a recent photo from a keynote of mine where Michael Phelps was featured on one of my slides and had sent the photo to Bob Bowman, letting him know I detail the story of the Olympic swimmer in many keynote presentations when I talk about the power of a routine. Then she sent me this text:So, my first day at NAR went from a random encounter at Starbucks with the 28-time Olympic medalist, (23-time Gold medalist) Michael Phelps, to a phone call from a former Intero agent to a future meeting with Bob Bowman and Michael himself! Not a bad way to kick off the conference …While this experience was quite a highlight in Chicago, other important events at NAR included RISMedia’s Power Broker Forum, where I was grateful to moderate a panel on “New Strategies for Engaging Consumers.” I also attended RISMedia’s 22nd Annual Power Broker Reception & Dinner, which featured special guest speaker, Frank Abagnale, one of the world’s top fraud-prevention experts and author of Catch Me If You Can. I’ve attended every single Power Broker dinner since its beginning and I have to say, Frank was the best speaker I’ve seen yet.Another memorable highlight from the conference was our Real Living Real Estate booth, manned by none other than Bob McAdams, Real Living president and by former realtor.com CEO, now COO of Real Living, the legendary Mr. Say, Allan Dalton. Across the way from the Real Living booth was the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices booth, which was not only impressive but also equipped with a 180-degrees photo booth to record “social moments.” We had almost 400 NAR attendees stop by the photo booth to experience a social moment. Here’s mine with Joan Docktor, president of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach, REALTORS®:https://www.instagram.com/p/BbDIC6yFQvi/?taken-by=bhhsrealestateSo, what’s the message? I’m actually going to quote an Instagram posted today by Gary Vaynerchuk, the world’s leading social media guru: “Everyone wants to hang out at the finish line without running the race.” Applied to our NAR story, we might say, “Everyone wants to hang out at the finish line without swimming the race.” In order to really win—and define win as anything that means winning to you—you have to put in the time and hard work. You have to attend the conferences, hone in on the power of a daily routine, get up early and be ready to tackle the day with your morning coffee like Michael Phelps. You also have to dig deep into difficult, complex issues like we did at our panel on consumer engagement and really make an effort to find solutions; and, perhaps most importantly, you must connect in a way that’s genuine and lasting, even if it’s just for a social moment … or a selfie.November 10, 2017

#138 Thoughts on Leadership: Get on Board

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me first in Minneapolis for a HomeServices of America, Inc. board meeting and then in chilly Chicago for the National Association of REALTORS® Conference & Expo. But more on my Windy City trip and NAR takeaways in next week’s post …For now, let’s return to Minneapolis and talk about boards. In official corporate terms, a board of directors is primarily responsible for protecting shareholders’ assets and ensuring they receive a good return on investment. In this particular case, the HSoA board met to discuss budgeting, assess risk and in general, make decisions that would move the organization and its affiliates toward even more growth and profitability.Writing for the Stanford Business Magazine, David Dodson, director in several boards and Stanford lecturer, explains that a well-run, efficient board creates the necessary scaffolding for sustainable success. “If you leave those board meetings consistently prepared to do something differently because you learned something from the board meeting, that’s the mark of a good board,” Dodson says.In other words, good boards work when there’s synergy, open-mindedness, fluidity and candor. Members serve at the discretion of the board and there’s an unspoken—or sometimes spoken— agreement that dissention is not only encouraged but also welcomed. Debating alternative viewpoints is the epitome of a high-performing board. As Jeffrey A. Sonnenfeld of the Yale School of Management once wrote in the Harvard Business Review, “Effective boards require their members to play a variety of roles, in some cases dipping deep into the details of a particular business, in others playing the devil’s advocate, in still others serving as the project manager. Playing different roles gives directors a wider view of the business and of the alternatives available to it.”Another key aspect to an efficient board of directors is preparation. Every member of the HSoA board is supremely prepared well before he or she steps into that board room and totally versed on the issues at hand. As a board member, you can’t assume you know everything. (Recall one of my favorite sayings, “Once you think you know it all your slide to mediocrity has already begun.”)So, what’s the message? Well, think of a board of directors as a macro-example of your own company and leadership team. As leaders, you must ensure each member of your team exhibits candor, preparedness, collaboration and mutual trust and respect. Even if you haven’t developed an official board of directors, you should operate the same way these governing corporate bodies do. Welcome dissent, encourage discussion and come to agreements that are cloaked in decisive thought and extensive research. No large-scale company leader operates on his or her own and neither, too, should your own firm have one leader making decisions without consulting others first.November 3, 2017

#137 Thoughts on Leadership: Innovation and Planning

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in San Antonio, TX for 2018 Sales Convention planning. As you know, I’m a huge proponent of planning. Last year during my keynote onstage at Sales Convention, I even quoted one of my all-time favorite sayings by Dwight D. Eisenhower: “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless but planning is indispensable.”The theme of the upcoming Sales Convention in San Antonio is “Innovation” and I believe innovation and planning go hand in hand. You cannot innovate without first having a solid, decisive plan in mind. Yes, serendipity plays into it and sometimes, you just get lucky with a positive outcome but the more you plan the more likely it becomes that you’ll find the success you seek.Another truth: Failing to plan is planning to fail.In a Harvard Business Review article, Rita McGrath, a professor at Columbia Business School, together with Ian MacMillan, of the University of Pennsylvania’s business school, discussed the concept of what they call “innovation planning” or “discovery-driven planning” and why it’s so important for the accomplishment of goals. In legal terms, “discovery” is a pre-trial procedure when attorneys obtain information before trial through demands for production of documents, depositions of parties and potential witnesses, written interrogatories, and more. In general terms, discovery is crucial to a well-composed plan because it means you’ve done your homework; you’ve looked into what your competitors are doing, you’ve studied and calculated and deliberated all outcomes.McGrath and MacMillan state, “Conventional planning operates on the premise that managers can extrapolate future results from a well-understood and predictable platform of past experience.”But innovation planning means a thorough investigation into what you don’t understand. It’s almost impossible to merely plan based on past experiences or what you think you know, you must plan with strategy and decisiveness, research all avenues possible for your initiative and decide which way forward will yield the best results.So, what’s the message? Innovation planning is quite literally what we did in San Antonio this week. Our team didn’t say, “OK, we’re going to recreate what we did last year in Phoenix because we received a positive reception.” Instead, we brainstormed ways to make this Sales Convention different and fresh, and spoke about the specifics involved in turning this event into one that’s even bigger, better, more effective and engaging than anything we’ve produced before. That’s the power of innovation planning at work. Just wait until March 4 – 10 when you see our General Session stage …October 27, 2017

#136 Thoughts on Leadership: NAGLREP in Palm Springs

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in Southern California, specifically in Palm Springs for the 2017 National Association of Gay & Lesbian Real Estate Professionals (NAGLREP) 2017 National Convention. Key to my role as CEO of HSF Affiliates is to attend so many events and I have to say, I think the real estate industry does an incredible job putting together its national and local conferences. It makes sense the real estate industry is among the best. These gatherings are our chance not only to gain new knowledge about real estate but also to make important connections, discover best practices, network with intelligent professionals and at the core, grow our business. In real estate, we rely on no one but ourselves for our ultimate success. If we can’t close a deal, if we can’t nail the listing appointment, if we’re not informed about the market, then we don’t get the business. At its core. That’s why real estate conferences are so well-put together and refined. They’re essential for us to become better leaders. NAGLREP is no exception.The conference began on Wednesday with an Opening General Session that featured Emcee Alec Mapa—who was hilarious by the way—and remarks from NAGLREP Founder Jeff Berger, who is acutely aware of the trends in the real estate industry and how they affect the gay and lesbian communities of buyers, sellers and sales professionals. Additional sessions for the day included: Augmented Reality: Next Frontier in Real Estate; Database – Fundamentals, Frequency and Predictable Financial Return; Lead Generation – Mindset, Habits and Scripts that Create Conversion; Why & How to Use Video to Dominate Your Market; 5 Things You Need to Be Doing in the Top 5 Social Media Channels; a keynote by Anthony Hitt, president and CEO of Engel & Völkers North America, who discussed lessons learned on his journey from entrepreneur to top-producing agent to leader of a real estate brand. An additional keynote was delivered later in the day by U.S. Congressman Mark Takano. To view the full agenda for Wednesday, click here.Today, I was grateful to deliver a keynote to the packed crowd on how to create an unstoppable mindset and routine that will lead to a breakthrough in business and an increase in production. As you know, I firmly believe that a powerful, regular routine is one of the key ways to create sustainable success in business and life.After my keynote, Sherry Chris, president and CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, discussed consumer trends and how they impact the real estate market, with a specific focus on the LGBT community.In fact, every session and every presentation both today and yesterday touched on this all-important group and why they’re so impactful from a sales professional standpoint and from the perspective of the real estate consumer. Here’s a fact: The 2017 NAGLREP Homeownership Survey found 46% of those surveyed believe the entirety of the LGBT community is more interested in homeownership now than ever before.So, what’s the message? If Teresa Palacios Smith, our VP of Diversity and Inclusion were writing this, she’d say “diversity” and I’d wholeheartedly agree. (Teresa, by the way, was in attendance with me at NAGLREP as we brainstormed more ways to incorporate the LGBT community in our brand initiatives.) If we’re not engaging diverse groups—like the LGBT community—in our markets, we’re missing out on an opportunity to grow alongside an influential sector of consumers. Diversity should always define what we do, how we operate in business and ultimately, the uniqueness of who we are.October 20, 2017

#135 Thursday Thoughts on Leadership: CFOs and Trendsetters

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels took me to Asheville, North Carolina for the annual CFO Conference, which brings together CFOs from among the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices network to share ideas and economics trends. Also during the conference, we discussed best practices for how the CFO can better serve his or her company as not only the financial steward of the organization but also as the trusted partner to the CEO and leadership team.I was excited to be among the CFO community at such a picturesque location though while I spend time on the East Coast, my thoughts remain with those in West, particularly in Northern California where devastating wild fires still rage, one of the worst fires to hit the Golden State, ever. We all send prayers to those affected by this awful disaster, and hope the winds cease soon and the flames are able to be extinguished so recovery can begin. Stay strong, California, we are with you!From Asheville I flew to Virginia Beach, VA to the office of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Towne Realty, where our trendsetter group, the Mavericks, was set to meet. This small think tank of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices network CEOs gets together every six months to exchange ideas and foster company growth. I must give kudos to Barbara Wolcott, broker/owner at Towne Realty, for organizing and hosting such a well-put together meeting. Thank you, Barbara!At every meeting, we do an idea exchange then give the CEO (this time, Barbara) candid feedback on the current state of her company and what can be done to improve it. We also take out time for the CEO from the previous meeting to report on progress made since we last met. In Virginia Beach, Allen Crumbley, broker/owner of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Properties Group, reported on the changes he’s implemented at his company following our meeting six months ago and how these changes have positively impacted his brokerage’s success.

I’m a big proponent of the “status update” portion of the meeting because it means there’s accountability in the actions we suggest. As you know, the fourth discipline in the Four Disciplines of Execution system is to “create a cadency of accountability,” which is of utmost importance when you want to ensure a goal is met. No matter how great a plan or idea may be, it won’t amount to anything if it’s not executed and carried out in full.So, what’s the message? From forward-thinking CFOs to innovative CEOs, this week was all about being surrounded by great leaders whose ideas can foster even greater success. Today, take a look at the people around you and the businesses you associate with every day. (I was impressed, for instance, by TowneBank, which is affiliated with Towne Realty. This affiliation between a real estate company and a financial institution offers incredible value to home buyers and sellers, who are able to employ Towne Realty as a one-stop-shop for all their real estate, mortgage, title, settlement, insurance, and banking needs.) One way to grow as a leader and a business is to look internally and make positive changes for yourself but another way is to assess the strength of your partnerships and the leaders around you, and from this strength, build on your own.October 13, 2017

#134 Thoughts on Leadership: Altruism amid Tragedy

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me first in San Diego for the 2017 AREAA National Convention. The conference focused on how real estate can better serve buyers and sellers of diverse backgrounds and I was honored to participate in a panel discussion about the Fair Housing Act, created to ensure homeownership for all. The onstage dialogue was detailed and thoughtful, meant to get to the core of the Fair Housing issue and figure out how we can create a better way to protect renters and buyers from unlawful discrimination.Next, my itinerary would’ve taken me to Las Vegas for the Zillow Group Broker Forum. The event is invite-only and happens each year, bringing together the nation’s largest brokers to meet with Zillow Group executives and industry leaders to share ideas about trends in real estate. It would’ve been enlightening and informative, I’m sure, but Monday morning I received an email the event was cancelled, and the cancellation was of course the right thing to do.As you know, Sunday night marked the largest mass shooting in our nation’s history and on behalf of our organization, my thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by the awful tragedy in Las Vegas. This entire week has felt expectedly heavy on our hearts as the country mourns great losses, consoles and slowly, somehow attempts to heal.It’s incredible to me that while our world turns ever-tech—more connected, more digital—that when true darkness falls, we find bright spots not in the light from our cell phones but in the lights of those shining, valiant leaders who step up amid tragedy and show unyielding compassion, bravery and poise. We’re not defined by the technology we possess but by the character we display, and stories about the incredible heroes of the Las Vegas shooting prove that fact now more than ever before. I just read an article about the police officers who willingly put themselves in harm’s way by entering a hotel with reports of an active, heavily armed shooter inside. Now that’s leadership and heroism at its finest.The idea of the unselfishness of people is actually one that is central to our industry. When you think about the essence of real estate, we are not really in the business of buying and selling homes, we are in the business of helping others. We assist buyers, we assist sellers; we help people and always will.That spirit of altruism has been shown this week by Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Nevada Properties, Arizona Properties and California Properties. Some agents from the brokerages were wounded in the attack and it seems almost everyone knew someone who was affected by the shooting. Agents stood in line for more than eight hours to donate blood and the brokerage set a goal of raising $250K for victim relief. Mark Stark, CEO of Nevada Properties, Arizona Properties and California Properties, has already generously donated $25K. Those interested can contribute to the Las Vegas Victims’ Fund hereSo what’s the message? This week, I’ll keep it short because the focus must remain on the fallen and wounded in Las Vegas. But as I said, there is goodness that can be derived from such tragic horror and it’s found in the unwavering selflessness of people ready to help those in need.October 6, 2017

#133 Thoughts on Leadership: Real Estate and Legislation

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in Washington, D.C. for the National Association of REALTORS® RES Advisory Group Meeting and next in San Diego to attend the 2017 AREAA National Convention (but more on that next week). I’ve long embraced the virtues of our industry’s leaders working closely alongside lawmakers to ensure not only the synergy of current legislation with our business practices but also to ensure our nation’s laws promote and encourage homeownership for all.The meeting kicked off Wednesday at the Treasury Department with a presentation from Drew Maloney, Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs, Treasury. We were also joined that evening by Senator Isakson (R-GA), Congressman Sherman (D-CA) and Congressman Rothfus (R-PA).As pure coincidence, on the day RES began, the brand-new Tax Reform Framework was released, called “The American Model for Global Competitiveness.” The main purpose of the reform, as stated in the document is to put “America on a level international playing field and [put] an end to the incentives for shipping jobs overseas.”Maloney fielded questions from our group about this new Framework and how it affects the real estate industry. NAR released the following about where the association stands on tax reform: “Our current tax system is too complex, and tax reform should simplify it. However, tax reform must not discard the features of the system that provide the bedrock for homeownership in America.”After the Q&A, I was fortunate enough to spend some time with Senator Isakson and was impressed, as always, by his strong and consistent advocacy of the real estate industry. If you didn’t know, he’s one of us. Isakson, along with being a prominent political figure, is also a successful businessman with more than 40 years of experience as a broker for family-owned Northside Realty. In addition, he holds the distinction of being the only Georgian ever to get elected to the state House, state Senate, U.S. House and U.S. Senate. Last year he broke yet another record as the first Georgian Republican to ever get elected for a third term to the U.S. Senate. Now that’s an impressive and well-respected leader!This Thursday morning, Rei Mesa, 2017 RES Chair and broker/owner of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Realty called the meeting to order and next we received an update from NAR CEO Bob Goldberg, who was grilled with some tough questions and handled them all with characteristic intelligence and poise. Kudos to Ron Peltier and Lennox Scott who were very direct with Bob on how NAR can improve its support of real estate professionals.After, Lawrence Yun, NAR Senior Vice President of Research, provided a housing and market update, followed by Jennifer Barnard, FBI Headquarters, Supervisory Special Agent, who spoke about the perils of wire fraud and what we can do as an industry to prevent this persistent problem. Katie Johnson, NAR Senior Vice President and General Counsel, finished up the day with a legal presentation.Some additional notable priorities for the RES Meeting included:

  • Educate the REALTOR® community about data security and cybercrimes related to real estate transactions
  • Protect the Mortgage Interest Deduction
  • Support Upstream implementation
  • Improve down payment savings options for first time home buyers
… And more.So, what’s the message? The one, huge takeaway from my time spent in Washington, D.C. is the importance of staying informed, staying connected to our legislative leaders and staying educated on what’s happening in government and how these changes affect our industry. A good place to start would be here, researching NAR’s official stance on tax reform. Whether or not you agree with the position taken, it’s important as a leader to have an opinion that’s researched, strategic and informed. The best leaders are those who don’t just say what they want but also exactly why they want it. Take heed from this RES group, filled with busy and important leaders who no matter what give up their time to attend because they understand the significance of making their voice heard in such an impactful setting as our nation’s capital.September 29, 2017

#132 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.I actually enjoy time off—the hours before the work day starts, the weekends—because they’re opportunities to examine yourself and create a better you with a clear head. As I say, do stuff for yourself in the morning and things for everyone else in the afternoon. Why? Because you have a much greater chance of getting them done in the morning and less of a chance in the afternoon when interruptions often come up. In the morning, you can really focus on what’s working and what’s not working without the whirlwind of your daily activities pulling your thoughts in other directions. On weekends, on late nights and during those early morning hours, you can sit somewhere quiet and THINK. (Did you know Apple CEO Tim Cook gets up every day at 3:45 a.m.? Or that Xerox CEO Ursula Burns wakes at 5:15 a.m. for a workout? Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey wakes up before the sun rises for a 6-mile run. I’d argue there’s a direct correlation between utilizing downtime and the success of your leadership.)Every Saturday I ask myself this question: What am I doing in the upcoming week to improve so that I’m better than I was the week before?This past weekend I was talking with my friend, David Bergman, during our weekly book club meeting. David was coughing so I asked what was wrong. “Dave, are you still not over that cold?” I said, because the week before he had been sick. “I am,” he told me, “I just ordered a mocha and I’m pretty sure I’m allergic to dairy.”Right then I resolved to eliminate dairy from my coffee. It was a small discipline, a small change as a result of speaking with Dave but it will allow me to be a better version of myself in the weeks and months ahead.In fact, here’s a change-oriented practice I employ from Peter Bregman’s book, 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done: Set your alarm clock or phone to go off every hour during the day … that’s eight 1-minute check-ins. When the clock goes off, it’s your reminder to pause, reflect, recharge, recalibrate and refocus.So, what’s the message? If you find yourself with a stretch of time where you can relax, make sure you use it as an opportunity to contemplate the current state of your mind and body. Make a small change to better your health, shift your mindset toward even greater positivity, think about ways you can be more productive in the week ahead. I promise you, when you next sit down to work, you’ll be glad you made good use of your time off.September 22, 2017

#131 Thoughts on Leadership: A Time for Change

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in New York City, in particular at the prestigious Harvard Club for RISMedia���s Real Estate CEO Exchange, which brings together more than 225 powerhouse real estate leaders from all brands and all sectors of the industry to strategize on how best to meet the needs of today’s consumer.I’ve been attending this event for more than 20 years and you might ask yourself why I go back to the same conference year after year … Well, here’s why …First, John Featherston, founder, CEO and publisher of RISMedia and Daryl MacPherson, RISMedia’s executive vice president, do a consistently great job organizing and hosting the event. It’s so clear how much they love this industry and how much they want to have serious, progressive discussions about ways to make it better.The overwhelming theme during this conference was change. John F. Kennedy once said, “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”And the agenda for the New York event reflects this very sentiment. Click HERE to browse all the featured speakers.Ron Peltier, chairman and CEO of HomeServices of America, Inc., kicked off CEO Exchange with a keynote, “State of the Real Estate Union” about the importance of our ability as real estate leaders to adapt to an industry in flux.Other panel discussions for the day included: “What Keeps You Up at Night? Overcoming Hurdles to Profitability,” and “A Better Crystal Ball: How to Leverage Predictive Analytics.”On day two, topics included: “Transforming the Real Estate Transaction in the On-Demand Economy,” “The Evolution of the Real Estate Mode: Are You Adapting Fast Enough?” “Agent Teams, How to Manage, Maximize and Mitigate Risk,” “Averting Disaster: The Top 3 Risks to Your Brokerage and How to Avoid Them” and “The Verdict is In: Agent Loyalty is Out – Now What?”As you can see, the panels didn’t shy away from some very difficult and even uncomfortable issues. But in truth, there’s no way to create lasting change without digging deep into plaguing problems, focusing on the challenges, sharing potential solutions, determining a plan and of course, executing.So, what’s the message? It’s undoubtedly about change but it’s also about John and Daryl’s ability to recognize that change needs to be made. They’re real estate leaders who genuinely have great relationships with so many brokers in our industry, across all brands, across companies large and small, and use those relationships to bring leaders together. They’re also constantly giving new real estate leaders a chance to share their ideas because they’re often the ones at the forefront of change and have the nimbleness to implement it quickly. Still, John and Daryl recognize the weight and worthiness of decades-experienced brokers. The answers to our most persistent problems, I believe, come from combining the ideas of both groups. As JFK said, “Hold fast to the best of the past and move fast to the best of the future.”September 15, 2017

#130 THOUGHTS ON LEADERSHIP: Wildly Important Goals

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in St. Charles, MO at the Whitmoor Country Club for the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Alliance Real Estate Golf Tournament benefitting the Sunshine Kids. Before we hit the green, I met with the Alliance Real Estate team to talk about 8 principles of success and the 4 Disciplines of Execution (4DX). I’ve visited the brokerage many times before and each time I’m reminded that Alliance Real Estate has forward-thinking leaders at its helm: CEO/Owner Andrea Lawrence; President/Co-Owner Kevin Goffstein; and Executive Vice President/Co-Owner Bob Bax. It was evident from this meeting that the company is poised for even greater success in the St. Louis marketplace.

After our meeting it was off to a day of golf, and everyone—including actor and Sunshine Kids Executive Director G.W. Bailey who was in attendance for the event—had one goal in mind: Raise money for the Sunshine Kids.

Chris McChesney, author of 4DX, has a great quote about the impracticality of having too many goals: “When you work on that many goals, you actually work on none of them, because the amount of energy you can put into each one is so small, it’s meaningless.”

Because of this, streamlining your goals to hone in on only the Wildly Important Goals (WIGs), will allow you to accomplish them. Why did I know the Alliance Real Estate golf tournament would be successful even before it began? Simply put: The event was singularly focused on one WIG and one WIG alone.

“Human beings are genetically hardwired to do one thing at a time with excellence,” McChesney wrote in his pivotal book. For my part, I was determined to help the team achieve this goal by executing on one action: I knew there were 36 foursomes competing in the tournament—that’s 144 players—and also knew that if I bet each one $5 that I’d get closer to the hole on a par 3 than they would, my challenge would result in $720 raised.

So what’s the message? Get laser focused on your WIGs and only execute on the actions that’ll allow you to accomplish them, no matter how small these actions may seem. Even the little things we do toward the completion of our WIGs can have a huge impact on the overall outcome. The key is to narrow our focus and whittle down our goals so that only the most wildly important ones remain. As McChesney explained, “People who try to push many goals at once usually wind up doing a mediocre job on all of them. You can ignore the principle of focus, but it won’t ignore you.”

September 8, 2017


By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in Northern California, where I’ve been keeping close tabs on the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey. I’ve received numerous phone calls, made quite a few myself, emailed network members, and read your emails in return, which detail not only the destructive aftermath of the storm but also the inspiring courage of volunteers who are stepping up from all parts of the country to help where help is needed. Small boats, military Humvees … these heroes are deploying whatever it takes to bring those in harm’s way to safety.It could be a whole post—or even a book—to explain why the worst situations bring out our very best but it’s certainly worthwhile to examine Hurricane Harvey through the lens of leadership. When disaster strikes, we look to leaders to provide strength, inspire hope, and guide us through hardship toward recovery and ultimately, some kind of resolution.When I think of leaders who have battled resounding tragedy, I think of Rudy Giuliani, mayor of New York City during the 9/11 attacks. His ability to be compassionate and calm yet realistic and candid imbued Manhattan—and the United States—with much-needed brightness during one of America’s darkest days.I think also of Captain Edward John Smith, most famous for steering the RMS Titanic, who went down with the ship when it struck an iceberg and sank on April 15, 1912. The British Merchant Navy officer is remembered fondly for his stoicism in the face of utter tragedy on the high seas. Crew members recalled his formidable figure standing tall on the ship’s bridge, megaphone in hand, assisting with the evacuation of passengers onto life boats, knowing not all would survive and knowing he would most likely die.Another example of leadership amid crisis can be seen in Mary Barra, GM’s first female CEO. In 2014, Barra—who had been an electrical engineer at GM for more than 30 years—was only two months into her new role when news broke that GM put more than 1.7 million cars on the road that had an ignition-switch defect responsible for dozens of deaths. The development was an awful blow to one of the world’s largest automakers and Barra didn’t shy away from blame. Instead, she addressed the harrowing ordeal with a solemn and earnest video apology. “Something went very wrong,” she said, “And terrible things happened.”A 2007 article that ran in The New York Times said this about leadership and disaster: “In times of consuming trauma, psychologists and historians say, a leader must speak with a trusted voice and sketch honestly the painful steps to safety. A leader must weave a narrative of shared loss while acknowledging consuming anger.”It’s been estimated that more than 30,000 people have been displaced just in Texas alone, and hours ago Harvey threatened the region again with relentless new waves of rain. The images we see on the ground are a heartbreaking reminder that now more than ever leaders are needed to do what we do best … lead.So, what’s the message? Leadership exists on a continuum and its core tenets of resilience, determination and strategic planning then execution must be present as evidently in the lowest valleys of leadership as they are at the highest peaks. When catastrophe strikes like it did recently for the victims of Hurricane Harvey, a leader must balance sympathy with strength, feel the tense emotional pull of the situation and lead with rationality and clear-mindedness, just as the network professionals who shared their volunteer stories with me have done. It’s never an easy or simple thing to do but then again, what act of courage ever is?—If you’d like to contribute funds to those affected by Hurricane Harvey, the following organizations are currently collecting donations:Rolling in with Relief (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices United Properties relief effort)Rolling in with Relief’s Amazon Wish ListREALTOR® Relief FoundationAmerican Red CrossSeptember 1, 2017

#128 Thursday Thoughts on Leadership: Business Plan Now!

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in Northern California, taking meetings, organizing calls and just this morning, leading a teleconference with Debbie De Grote, founder/CEO of Excelleum Coaching & Consulting all about business planning. For all of us, a business plan is vital because even as an agent we must think of oursleves as a business, and all businesses must have a plan. Remember the wise words of Benjamin Franklin: “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”Some may think it’s strange though to have a business-planning call at the end of August but there’s a reason for this exact timing. During my 30+ years in the real estate business—as an agent, a manager and an owner of a company—I’ve always found that there’s a cash flow problem in the months of January and February. This applies to agents as much as it does to owners.Why? Because real estate operates on a 90-day cycle, so what we do 90 days before gets paid out 90 days later. This means a lag in business during the fall months will show up in Q1 of the new year. The lag is understandable, though avoidable; it’s obvious to notice right after Halloween a great number of agents go into hibernation. There’s Thanksgiving, the holidays … life gets busy and business gets put on the back burner. (Extrapolate those 90 days during this lull and you’ll understand clearly why cash-flow problems plague us in January and February.)To get you started, access our Business Planning Essentials by clicking HERE.Starting now, I want us to no longer think of Jan. 1 as the beginning of the new year. Our new start? Oct. 1. If we assume Oct. 1 is the “new” New Year, then we have to take the month of September to complete our business plan by that date, which explains our late-August business-planning call.As a small aside, it may seem early but now is a great time to organize the holiday cards you’ll send out, to arrange for a family photo shoot, to make sure you handwrite those messages (if possible) for your prospective and current clients. You want your holiday card to be in the mail on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving so when that Friday hits and everyone is shopping and home with family, yours is the first card they receive. (As a tip, make sure it has your photo and/or a family photo on it so they’ll be more likely to keep it.)Another very important aspect of your business plan is to schedule your calendar for the entire year. The first thing to schedule is your vacation, days off—anything that will give you balance. This will ensure that it actually happens and you don’t schedule meetings or calls during the time when you’re supposed to be off.So, what’s the message? First, if you haven’t already, click HERE to download the Business Planning Essentials document. Then make a promise to dedicate the entire month of September to complete your plan and have it polished, finished and ready to go on Oct. 1. But this timing shouldn’t just be applied now; you should for the rest of your career use this as a framework to build and grow your business. Each year, pledge to complete your business plan by Oct. 1 and then, when everyone else isn’t working or scrambling to business plan over the holidays, you’ll be way ahead of the game.August 25, 2017

#127 Thoughts on Leadership: Dream a Little, Win Big

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me in Park City, UT and Salt Lake City, UT, then in Southern California for team meetings at our HQ in Irvine. But instead of focusing on the business of the week, I want to instead detail my time spent in SLC, where I was honored to help present our “Love Your Home” Sweepstakes grand prize winner, Aaron Zimmerman, of Sandy, UT, with a $50,000 check. This was our third year running a “Love Your Home” Sweepstakes, (held in conjunction with HGTV), and we set a new Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices record with an astounding 5.7 million entrants, 77% above last year’s sweepstakes registration.With such an incredible number of entries, you might think, “There’s no chance I’d ever win!” But someone must win, someone did win and for 2017 that person was Aaron Zimmerman. Beyond being a serendipitous moment for Zimmerman, his win marks a three-year-long turn of true serendipity for our Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices sweepstakes. Each year, our winner was someone who will use the money in an impactful, substantial way. Let me explain …Our first sweepstakes, held in 2014, saw Barbara Wakefield win it all, a grandmother and devoted wife of 50+ years, who lives on a 120-acre farm in Lawrenceburg, KY. When I called Barbara back in 2014 to congratulate her on the win, I still remember what she told me she planned to use the winnings to renovate the kitchen in her 100-year-old home, and as I noted in 2014 when we spoke, Wakefield is not just a winner, she’s a winning person, too. Who could forget the plate of cookies and pitcher of lemonade she had waiting for our crew as they arrived at her house to photograph her with the $50,000 check?The next year, our winner was Todd Villari, a father of four from Trussville, AL, whose name was drawn from more than 3.3 million entrants. (You can relive the happy moment when Todd won by watching this video.) Villari lives in a historic neighborhood in Trussville and planned to use his grand prize to finish renovation on his home—building a new garage, putting in a fireplace, upgrading the kitchen—so he can provide an even better life for his wife and four small children.This year, Zimmerman won the prize, and called it “a life changer for me and my family.” He lives in the suburbs south of Salt Lake City with his wife Kathryn and their 4-year-old son. He says they’d like to use the winnings to purchase their first home, and he already pictures it featuring a large yard so his son, who has autism, has plenty of room to play.During the presentation, our team, along with the leadership team at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Utah Properties and Utah Properties CEO/Owner Steve Roney, announced the two organizations—Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices and Utah Properties—both contributed in the Zimmerman’s name to the Utah Parent Center for its ongoing support of families impacted by autism.The moment was touching, and especially poignant for me not only because of the good we were able to do for the Zimmermans but also because autism is a disorder close to my heart; my close friend Dave Smithson, who was in my wedding, has three children with autism.So what’s the message? Wayne Gretzy once said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Yes, the odds of winning our sweepstakes are small but really, if you don’t play, you can’t win. Still, the very best message for this week comes from the words of Kathryn Zimmerman, Aaron’s wife, as she described what it felt like when she first learned of the $50,000 grand prize: “I always believed the universe had something better for my family and this is a great start to our future,” she said. “It encourages us to move forward and dream a little.” There you have it. Dream a little, win big.August 18, 2017

#126 Thoughts on Leadership: 11 Days of Travel

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me on the final day of 11 days of straight travel, which is unusual for me because I’m typically home on the weekends. However, this week-and-a-half business adventure has certainly been worthwhile and I’d like to recap some of the highlights for you now …I started out at the Housing Renaissance, held at the Grand Del Mar resort in San Diego. The mission of the event is to gather top housing industry thought leaders, high-level executives, policy makers and leading entrepreneurs in order to discuss how best to create sustainable homeownership in the housing industry and how we can better serve a diverse housing market. I have to say, the crowd at the Housing Renaissance was impressive; the room was filled with many well-credentialed people, including event organizers Gary Acosta (co-founder and CEO of NAHREP), Phil Bracken (chief policy officer of government and industry relations at Radian Guaranty) and Jim Park (partner at The Mortgage Collaborative). Other notable guests were Henry Cisneros, CEO of City Viery, Nicolas Retsinas, senior lecturer at Harvard Business School, Brad Blackwell, EVP at Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, Barrett Burns, CEO at VantageScore Solutions LLC, David Kittle, CMB, vice chairman and president at The Mortgage Collaborative, Shawn Krause, EVP at Quicken Loans and Barry Zigas, director of housing policy at the Consumer Federation of America. All in all, conference attendees proved a thought-provoking mix of real estate leaders and Washington D.C. policymakers, which, when brought together, is a recipe for actionable change.From San Diego I went to Brian Buffini’s MasterMind Summit, a conference that not only delivers with consistent information year after year but also features some of the most unbelievable speakers. This year, Mitch Albom, author of the beloved book, Tuesdays with Morrie, spoke to the crowd and shared his story of success, which began in New Jersey, where he grew up and taught himself to play piano. It would be years and years later that he became one of Detroit’s most well-known sports media figures and after that a best-selling author. And, as if the keynotes couldn’t get any better, Olympic Gold Medalist Scott Hamilton next took to the stage, and shared his life’s story, too. The retired American figure skater (he won four consecutive U.S. Championships, four consecutive World Championships and a gold medal in the 1984 Olympics), told his tale about growing up as a small, sickly child and how he’s battled cancer over and over again and still came out skating. His resilience, mental and physical toughness and ability to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles moved the entire crowd and you couldn’t help but feel every emotion as he so candidly and bravely shared his tale with us.From one great event to the next … after MasterMind Summit it was off to my good friend and real estate coach Tom Ferry’s Success Summit in Las Vegas. As it does each year, this conference also proved incredibly inspirational and covered topics as wide-ranging as Google consumer trends, Facebook marketing, business models of the future, off-market listings, mega open houses and behaviors to embrace for success and mental toughness. I sat with about 4,000 to 5,000 agents in the room and as I listened to the wealth of information being doled from the stage had one thought: I’ve known Tom Ferry since he was 19 years old and to see him evolve from a scrappy teenager to a successful, intuitive, bright business man is just an awesome thing. In fact that brings me to my main message …So, what is the message? As I thought about the best way to wrap up this 11-day business trip in some kind of a blog-post bow, I was cruising down Interstate 280, going a comfortable 65 miles per hour when I noticed, despite the open roads, the off-ramp to De Anza Blvd., where the Apple Headquarters are located, was backed up for almost a mile. It makes sense, of course, that the exit to Apple HQ should be so crowded; it’s a huge, successful, growing company and one of the world’s most innovative tech brands. But really, the success comes from the people, those employees in the cars on their way to their Apple jobs, about to change the world with whatever it is they’re working on that day. And that idea of people, of the quality and ability of people to change lives, is really what I took away from my trip. Tom Ferry, Brian Buffini … I’ve known them both for decades and beyond being great in business, they’re terrific in life, the nicest and kindest fathers, husbands, friends and human beings. When I think about it, the highlight reel from my trip doesn’t really include the apps I learned about or the social media marketing trends I can take back to my teams but the people I met and the stories they shared. Those are the things that changed me and what made a week and a half of constant travel completely worth it.August 11, 2017

#125 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.This year marks my 27th appearance at the event and I’m honored to say Mike Ferry hasn’t only been a longtime inspiration in my career but also a cherished mentor for more than three decades. Mike has been in the real estate business—on both the sales and management side—for 40+ years. In this time, he’s earned himself an unparalleled reputation for outstanding professional accomplishment that derives from decades of hard work, dedication, passion and an unyielding commitment to achieving his goals and helping clients achieve theirs, too.

With Mike Ferry, founder/owner of The Mike Ferry Organization.

I attended my first Superstar Retreat in 1986 and the entire experience had a profound impact on me. While the conference covers many of the same topics year after year, there’s a reason for this repetition. In an industry characterized, and in many ways propelled, by the technological winds of change, the core tenets of real estate will forever remain unchanged. It’s this “Back to Basics” philosophy I’m reminded of each time I watch Mike Ferry take to the stage, the very picture of motivation and success. It seems the theme of each retreat goes something like: In order to remain relevant, we must embrace the new but remember it’s imperative to retain the fixed fundamentals that are time-tested, industry truths. Here are some of those “basics” I jotted down as I sat in the Superstar Retreat sessions this week:

  1. Work ethic. Mike Ferry, at 72 years old, still works as hard as he did 30 years ago. It’s an inspiring thing to behold someone who has such a strong commitment to work, just like our own Warren Buffett. Mike said your competition may have more innate talent than you do but tell yourself they’ll never outwork you and keep on pushing!
  2. The benefits of challenge. . As an agent, going to a Superstar Retreat wiped out any feelings I had that were close to complacency or any ideas I had that I’d done really well for myself in real estate that year. There were so many people sitting in the room who had done so many more transactions than me, whose business was even better than mine. This goes back to the idea of humility and a concept I feel is so important, it gets a permanent spot on my email signature: “Don’t join an easy crowd … where the expectations are low … or where they don’t care … the problem with that is you won’t grow … go where the expectations are high … go where you’re challenged to study, to read, to change, to develop, to learn the next skill. Because it’s the challenge that creates the muscle. The mental muscle, the vocal muscle, the actual physical muscle to become better, stronger, wiser, more unique!”
  3. The worth of reunions. It’s funny how we can be so connected to friends and colleagues in this digital, social age and yet, so very disconnected at the same time. It’s nice to catch up with old friends via Facebook status updates but it’s even better to have a person-to-person interaction with them. At this Superstar Retreat, I was able to reunite with so many longstanding friends, deepening our connection and sense of trust in each other in a way no text on a screen could ever create. Tim Rohan, it was great catching up with you on Wednesday night and congratulations on being an MFO coach!

With Tim Rohan, new MFO coach, at Mike Ferry’s Superstar Retreat.

With Ron Taylor of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Network Realty at Mike Ferry’s Superstar Retreat.

August 4, 2017

#124 Thoughts on Leadership: Innovation in Austin

By Gino Blefari

This week’s travels found me in Austin, Texas … and what a place to be! Austin is a booming city overflowing with rich culture, a lively entertainment scene and incredible food. It’s no wonder it boasts the highest growth in the country in terms of population and jobs. In fact, according to the latest estimates, Austin adds 159 people per day to its metro-area population.After spending several days in Austin, I can see why so many people are eager to move there. Fun fact: Whole Foods’ flagship location can be found in downtown Austin and it’s an 8,000-square-foot market unlike any other. The Whole Foods Market Inc. worldwide headquarters is also located in Austin, which practically ensures city dwellers there remain focused on healthy eating. As I always say, a large part of effective leadership is maintaining your energy, which comes from regular exercise and a mindful, nutritious diet. Relatedly, Austin was named by CNBC as a top city for launching a tech startup and has a thriving entrepreneurial community of small businesses and innovative leaders.Speaking of innovative leaders, I was in town to meet with the Austin Board of REALTORS® (ABoR), an impressive organization led with distinctive forward-mindedness by CEO Paul Hilgers. He’s a great guy and he’s done a super job transforming the association into a modern example of what a real estate advocacy group should be. Even the office, with its sleek, mirrored windows and tall frame, looks the very progressive picture of the members contained inside. And the interior is just as striking with cutting-edge design and panoramic views of the city.I was honored to deliver my seven principles for success to the team and even shot a few videos talking about real estate and leadership, which are coming out soon. Paul mentioned he was confident his board members and leadership would now be able to achieve their professional goals faster by following these principles, which is the ultimate goal!While at ABoR, I was joined by my friend, Johnnie Johnson, former All Pro for the Los Angeles Rams and CEO of World Class Coaches, who spoke to a crowd eager to hear from the legendary Texas Longhorn. Johnnie’s company, World Class Coaches, facilitates the Moving Families Initiative, which is fitting to discuss in a place experiencing such rapid growth.Like the city of Austin itself and the contemporary leadership style of ABoR, Moving Families Initiative is a pioneering program.So, what’s the message? During my trip to Austin, innovation was all around. From the towering Whole Foods to the incredible ABoR board and staff leadership to the ideas Johnnie detailed about how Moving Families Initiative can help Austin real estate professionals better assistant buyers and sellers. As a leader, it’s important to surround yourself with inspiring people, places and things. Because while it’s true you can always find inspiration within yourself, it’s your surroundings and who you surround yourself with that might just provide the extra motivation, creativity and encouragement you need to achieve your goals.Pictured in photo above: Back row: Chris McCambridge, Sandy Joseph, Johnnie Johnson, Jay Warren, Jeff WalkerFront Row: Rick Ellis, Katie Sharp, Gino Blefari, Lynn Jones, Christine PeaseJuly 28, 2017

#123 Thursday Thoughts on Leadership: The Power of Connections

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me first in Rolling Hills Estates, CA, meeting with Bruce Short, broker/owner at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties; Mistydawn Jones, branch manager at California Properties; Denise Scarpetti, California Properties director of operations; Rick Elorriaga, vice president at California Properties; and members of the California Properties team. I was also working with our HSF Affiliates team in Irvine, CA. It’s been a busy few days but the time has been spent connecting with colleagues and friends—through a new employee orientation, at a California Properties awards event, during our HSF Affiliates Town Hall.In business, networking and connecting is absolutely vital—the right connections can not only help you achieve your goals but also provide a richness to your life you can’t get from operating in insolation. Genuine connections are hard to find but essential to maintain. How do you connect with others in a way that’s both authentic and powerful? Watch the video for more ...

July 21, 2017

#122 Thoughts on Leadership: The Importance of Diversity

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me spending time with close family and friends in Calgary, Alberta, Canada then Lake Louise in Alberta, Banff National Park and, lastly Vancouver. (I write this now while traveling on the Rocky Mountaineer, a train that runs from Banff to Vancouver.) It’s been an incredible few days spent among the rugged, mountainous terrain of the Canadian Rockies, and strangely, being outside of the country has made me think about the beauty and uniqueness of our own. What makes America so very special? My blog posts for the rest of the entire year could focus on this one question and not adequately provide an answer. Still, there is something that undoubtedly and singularly characterizes the United States, and it’s a quality not often seen with such pervasiveness in any other land: Diversity.At Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, this word has become more than just a hot-button topic for us; diversity is a value we’ve woven into our core, foundational mission and vision. In the past few weeks, I’m proud to say we’ve made two serious steps in the arena of diversity: First, by naming an affiliate to our brokerage network, which must be one of the most diverse companies in California and second, by hiring Teresa Palacios Smith, our newly appointed vice president of Diversity & Inclusion.The brokerage I allude to—Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Elite Real Estate in Sacramento, CA—is a stand-out, previously independent operation we’re proud to add to our network and I was honored to attend the brokerage launch last week. Elite Real Estate, led by Robert Do, brokerage president and CEO, and CFO Teresa Do, is an agent-centric company and poised for growth. “I believe that understanding where someone comes from is an important stage in creating a long-term, enduring relationship,” Robert Do said. “You have to do more than just give me a key to their house; you have to turn your clients into your friends and even family members.”Do recounts one story of an agent who, upon request, visited a client in the hospital at midnight just because the client knew the agent spoke English and could help out in the process of communication with doctors. “That’s just how we’ve done business all these years,” he explained.Himself an immigrant of Vietnam, Do traveled to America with his aunt in 1975, mere days after Saigon fell. He founded his brokerage in the late-1990s and ever since, has been sharply focused on fostering diversity and creating client connections that last. “Life changed when I had my first kid, just like life changed when I recruited my very first agent,” he said.Speaking of change, our senior executive team just added a new VP in Teresa Palacios Smith, who came to her position from Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Georgia Properties where she spent 22 dedicated years of service. Most recently, she was VP of Business Development & Cultural Initiatives for Georgia Properties and in 2015, was also the president of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals.We’re proud and excited about this new role within our organization. “This position is so natural for me,” she said. “Growing up as a Latina in Mississippi, I experienced the many challenges that immigrant families face and the overwhelming feeling of accomplishment when my husband and I bought our first home. I can’t wait to be able to play a role in expanding our network of agents, brokers and consumers to reflect the multicultural fabric that is the USA.”So, what’s the message? As I sit here writing this post from the Canada wilderness, I think the message for today is purely American. Robert Do said it best when he explained, “Diversity is the fabric that made America, so believe it or not, the more diverse we become the more of an all-American company we’ll be.”July 14, 2017

#121 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 …

June 23, 2017

#120 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.

With best-selling author, communications expert and keynote speaker, Carmine Gallo, at Berkshire Elite Circle 2017.

First, key points from Carmine:

  • The aim of every presentation must be to inform, educate and inspire.
  • On the topic of threes, remember the power of three: Every good presentation should have no more than three major points. Anything beyond three and your audience will tune out and remember little to nothing about what you’ve said, no matter how powerful.
  • Don’t think about a presentation as presenting; think about it as storytelling. If you can tell a story instead of deliver the straight facts and figures, your entire delivery will be all the more compelling because of it. As Carmine said, “Stories are the data within the soul.”

Storytelling is innate. Think about the literal meaning of a “fireside chat.” For centuries, humans have gathered around a fire to share stories. Famously, Richard Branson ends all his meetings on Necker Island around the fire and credits these casual discussions as the source of some of his employee’s most creative and persuasive concepts. As he wrote on his official Virgin blog: “Telling a story is one of the best ways we have of coming up with new ideas, and also of learning about each other and the world.”

On the stage at Berkshire Elite Circle 2017 with Tom McCarthy, leadership, communication and peak performance expert.

Next, key points from Tom:

  • Energize your audience with your presence, your power and your warmth. As you speak, bring it from the heart. There’s not much worse than an inauthentic presentation. Feel it and your audience will, too.
  • Connect with your audience by moving with purpose. As you pivot from one direction of a conference room or stage while presenting, look someone in the eye. There are few things more powerful than direct eye contact as you speak. If you are on a stage, stay forward and never step behind a podium. Podiums will only separate you from your audience and create a physical disconnection between your presentation and those you’re trying to move to action with your words.
  • Show up feeling like a winner; you’ll carry that confidence out onto the stage. (As I say, the power of a positive mindset!)

So, what’s the message? The next time you’re asked to present, remember these tips and also remember that good presentation takes practice. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t nail it the first time because there will be a second, third, fourth time to get it right and win. As Branson once said, “Business opportunities are like buses, there’s always another one coming.” And as I’ll add, just make sure when the next bus is there, you’re ready to ride. 

June 16, 2017

#119 Thursday Thoughts on Leadership: Travel to Learn

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in the city of St. Louis to meet with the team at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Select Properties, an amazing group of real estate professionals who prove with crystal-clear assurance what you can achieve when you have a strong, vibrant culture at your brokerage business.I have to tell you, being in St. Louis was really an eye-opening trip for me. I’ve long been a fan of the idea that new eyes see old things in new ways and sometimes, these “eyes” aren’t literal eyes but instead places, things and experiences that widen your perspective in ways you never thought possible. Travel, in this sense, is more than just going from one place to another but instead a complete mindset shift and a chance to learn what you otherwise would never have known. For instance, who knew that there’s an area of St. Louis called “The Hill,” home to baseball greats Yogi Berra and Joe Gargiola Sr., who spent their childhood living across the street from one another on Elizabeth Avenue?“Not only was I not the best catcher in the Major Leagues,” Gargiola once famously said, “I wasn’t even the best catcher on my street!”I would never have known about the location of The Hill had I not been in St. Louis, in that area where Yogi and Joe grew up.But The Hill isn’t the only St. Louis landmark steeped in history; Forest Park, where the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Select Properties Sunshine Kids charity golf tournament took place, is also a region with a rich past. And it certainly made for an incredibly picturesque setting befitting of our charity event; I was honored to participate and raise money for the Sunshine Kids!At the event’s reception, I was able to catch up with my good friend Jim Schutzenhofer who was there for a portion of the event and rattled off some interesting facts about Forest Park. For example: Located in the western portion of St. Louis, Forest Park spans 1,371 acres of the city. It first opened in 1876 and has since hosted many significant events including the Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904 and the 1904 Olympics. Contained within its expansive bounds is also the St. Louis Zoo, Saint Louis Art Museum, the Missouri History Museum, the St. Louis Science Center, the Steinberg Skating Rink, the Boathouse Restaurant, the Highlands Golf and Tennis Center and more. (Yes, all that fits into this amazing park, which is approximately 500 acres larger than NYC’s Central Park.) In the early 2000s, the park underwent a $100-million restoration, which has since improved its facilities and restored its prairie and wetland areas, allowing birds and wildlife to flourish among these newly refurbished natural habitats.So, what’s the message? Sometimes, it’s all about the grind, about sitting at your desk, with laptop in front of you and working until you see real results. Sometimes, however, it’s about getting up from your desk, your office, your town even, and traveling somewhere completely new. Because you’d be surprised what you can discover and just how much you can learn and be inspired by the history of a place you’ve never seen before.June 9, 2017

#118 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.Also on the agenda for the day was keynote speaker Gary Vaynerchuk, co-founder/CEO of VaynerMedia, four-time New York Times best-selling author and the leading expert on social media marketing. I’ve been following Gary’s no-nonsense philosophies on leadership, entrepreneurship and social media for a long time, ever since we had the chance to meet at a Tom Ferry event years ago, and it was motivating to hear him recount his ideas about relentlessness and the importance of resolute determination in the pursuance of personal and professional success.Additional speakers included: Kelli Ellis, founding partner of Design Campus, The Design MasterMind and author of a best-selling design psychology coaching book; Iz Avila, one of the original developers of the Beats headphones and four-time Grammy award-winning producer; Greg Harrelson, an expert on developing talent and leadership to garner huge business growth; Alejandra Font, co-founder of Southern California’s fastest-growing fitness movement, The Camp; and John Tsai, who sold more than 100+ homes last year using the power of accountability.For our Q A session, I spoke with Danny about my own principles of success and how there are certain undeniable characteristics we must all possess to achieve. Together, we discussed what it means to live a life characterized by fierce relentlessness and how to have a lasting career in real estate, which often means pushing past insecurities and setbacks, and when faced with what may seem like overwhelming defeat, remaining relentless in the execution of your goals.So, what’s the message? Recognize that losing and defeat are close relatives of triumph and that they will always be necessary components in the much larger picture of enduring success. As Gary Vaynerchuk once wrote in a blog post on his site, “The quicker you realize this, the sooner you won’t be paralyzed by the thought of making a mistake in business.” Because being inexorable in the pursuit of your goals means not being afraid to fail. It also means fully understanding that a letdown isn’t a loss, it’s merely another opportunity to dust yourself off, pull it together and, in the spirit of true relentlessness, try again until you win.June 2, 2017

#117 Thoughts on Leadership: Memorial Day 2017

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me first in Las Vegas for the ICSC REcon event and next in Minneapolis for the HomeServices of America, Inc. CEO meeting. Before I describe Minneapolis, I want to first explain ICSC, the world’s largest retail real estate convention with more than 37,000 attendees representing 58 countries. These commercial real estate powerhouse leaders gather each year for deal making, networking and innovative education, and it was incredible to be among so many passionate commercial sales professionals, especially as Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices continues to grow its commercial sector nationwide.In Minneapolis, I was honored to spend time among the leadership teams that make up HomeServices of America, Inc., who HomeServices of America Chairman and CEO Ron Peltier closed out our meeting by describing as, “the best operators in real estate.”After Minneapolis I’m returning home to Northern California to spend the Memorial Day holiday weekend with friends and family. As a passionate student of history, this holiday is particularly meaningful, and I’d like to share with you a brief narrative about how it came to be:Each year, Memorial Day is celebrated on the last Monday of May to honor the fallen men and women who served in the U.S. military. Memorial Day was officially declared a federal holiday in 1971 but early observances date back to the Civil War. Claiming more casualties than any other war in U.S. history, the Civil War was a bloody battle with an estimated 630,000 lives lost. At the time, Americans began holding informal ceremonies to commemorate these soldiers, decorating graves with flowers and gathering to remember their bravery and willingness to fight until the end.May 30, 1868 marks the first formal observance of fallen soldiers, and it was the same day that General James Garfield delivered a moving speech to 5,000 attendees at the Arlington National Cemetery, where more than 15,000 Confederate and Union soldiers were put to rest. Here’s an excerpt of what he said:“I am oppressed with a sense of the impropriety of uttering words on this occasion. If silence is golden, it must be here, beside the graves of fifteen thousand men, whose lives were more significant than speech, and whose death was a poem, the music of which can never be sung.”So, what’s the message? This holiday weekend, think about the concept General Garfield so eloquently articulated years and year ago, which is that sometimes words may be insufficient to express gratitude or deliver profound reverence for the brave American soldiers we’ve lost. A moment of silence might be the best way to honor those who can no longer speak for themselves but whose legacy, through our Memorial Day observance, nonetheless lives on.May 26, 2017

#116 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.Of highlight for me during this thought-provoking conference was the NAR Top 75 Large Residential Firm Directors Forum, which took place earlier today and opened with a welcome speech from my friend Rei Mesa, 2017 RES Chair and dynamic president and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Realty. The forum also featured brief updates from Jeff Barnett, 2017 RES Vice-Chair; Paul Bishop, NAR VP of Research; NAR SVP and General Counsel Katie Johnson; Alex Lange, CEO of Upstream; and Tracy Mahnken, SVP of products for realtor.com.After the meeting concluded, I was able to catch up with some industry leaders, whose work is ensuring the necessary legislation is in place to best support a healthy housing market. These leaders included:Jerry Giovaniello, SVP of Government Affairs for NAR. Mr. Giovaniello is the chief lobbyist of the NAR, representing more than 1 million members involved in all aspects of both commercial and residential real estate.Sarah Young, director of real estate services for NAR who is currently focused on tax reform to benefit prospective homeowners. In a recent RISMedia story, she wrote: “While NAR has long touted the benefits of owning a home, it’s more important than ever to send a strong message to lawmakers about NAR’s proprieties as Congress considers tax reform proposals in 2017.”Rei Mesa, RES Chair and member of our Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices network family, whose work with NAR is backed by more than 30 years of experience in real estate and a strong passion to create positive, effective and widespread industry change.Joe Ventrone, VP and deputy chair for regulatory affairs at NAR. At the association, Mr. Ventrone is responsible for developing and analyzing policy on housing, real estate finance, business and technology, environment and commercial real estate.Jim Imhoff, CEO of First Weber Realtors. He also serves as chair of the REALTOR® Party Corporate Ally Program, which provides an unprecedented advocacy partnership between NAR and its extended real estate corporate family; the Corporate Ally Program raises voluntary corporate funds to invest in both campaigns and issues at both the state and federal levels that are conducive to buying, selling and owning real estate.So, what’s the message? Unlike other conferences, the REALTORS® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo is really about bringing together the movers and shakers in our industry with those who set the legislative policies that affect real estate markets and homeownership in the United States. It’s an important collaboration and one that generates discernible progress year after year. It also facilitates unique networking opportunities and you know how much I advocate for networking and creating meaningful connections! (Read more about that here.) The biggest lesson to be gleaned from this conference is really about the importance of working together, seeking help outside our industry and finding those who can move things forward in a way no one else can (in this case, by combining real estate leaders with the legislators responsible for setting policy). It’s fine—and necessary—to discuss problems and issues but reaction without action will get you nowhere. However, pair passionate reaction with strategic action and that’s exactly how you’ll find the change you seek.May 19, 2017


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:

  • Good deals are made of the same foundational structure. Buffett said this about companies he’d want to acquire: The businesses must have a competitive advantage over the next five to 10 years, strong management teams and be offered at a fair price. Aren’t those three key components to the sustainable success of any organization? In fact, these three aspects could be considered WIGs—create a lasting competitive advantage, build a robust leadership team and price your offerings to fairly compete in the marketplace.
  • Leadership starts at the top. This one may seem obvious but it’s all about accountability. When something goes right, it’s easy for leaders to take credit. Not as easy? When failures occur (and in all businesses they always do). When something goes wrong, leaders must possess the sometimes-difficult ability not to deflect but instead to take the blame, assess the situation, formulate a plan and move forward with a workable solution. As Mr. Buffett said at the meeting: “At some point if there’s a major problem, the CEO will get wind of it. And at that moment, that’s the key to everything, because the CEO has to act.”
  • Life is about balance, about making healthy choices but weighing these with the benefits of happiness and enjoyment. When talking about his daily Coca-Cola habit, the investor said, “If you told me that I would live one year longer—and I don’t think I would—if I’d live one year longer if I ate broccoli or asparagus or whatever, or if I eat what I like including Coca-Colas and steak and hash browns, I’d rather eat what I like and enjoy eating what I like than eat something I don’t and live another year.” As I always say and Mr. Buffett reiterates, it’s about balance. You know how much I advocate healthy living but I’m never one to turn down a good steak!
  • It’s important to stay humble, admit your mistakes and use them as lessons not crutches, then move on. “We never owned a share of Amazon,” Mr. Buffett said. “I admire Jeff [Bezos, Amazon CEO] but I did not think he’d succeed on the scale that he has, and I didn’t even think of the possibility that he’d do the things with the cloud services. I never even considered buying Amazon.”

So, what’s the message? Success breeds success. In other words, if you want to accomplish your goals, find mentors and masters in your industry, people whose life work is not only admirable but also inspirational. Diligently study exactly how these leaders made it to the top then forge your own path inspired by the knowledge you’ve learned. As Mr. Buffett once said, “Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”

May 11, 2017

#114 Thoughts on Leadership: T3 Summit

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in Westlake Village, CA for the 2017 T3 Summit, a premier real estate event that brings together leaders from around the country to take part in hearty discussions about the current state of our industry and how to best move the needle forward and bring about positive, progressive change. More than 30 CEOs and C-level executives join Stefan Swanepoel, chairman/CEO of the T3 Summit Group, onstage during the conference, sharing their unique experiences and how they’ve overcome challenges specific to residential real estate. I was humbled to have been asked to be among this group and honored to share my life’s story with the crowd.

Additional keynote speakers provide insight from beyond the real estate industry. This year’s speaker list included: Robyn Benincasa, adventurer and CNN Hero; Walter Robb, former co-CEO of Whole Foods; and Michael Gerber, a small business guru. More than fifteen deep-dive sessions cover industry-specific issues like the search for NAR’s next CEO, the tale behind the BRIGHT MLS merger (one of the largest mergers in the nation), conversion of broker data into valuable assets and the unexpected, even radical viewpoints that could potentially change the way we conduct real estate forevermore. I also have to give major kudos to Stefan, whose mastery comes through in not only his expert moderation of these sessions but also in how well-organized the entire event is year after year. T3 Summit is a true example of precision in action—everything starts and ends exactly when it should and delivers on precisely the topic at hand.

One of the most interesting aspects of the T3 Summit is its limited space. The event is capped at 300 leaders and specifically designed to address challenges, obstacles and roadblocks that are currently being faced by the real estate industry. As you know, I’m a proponent of setting specific, attainable and actionable goals and T3 is organized to meet just this one. I’m also an advocate of think tank groups (read about my most recent meetings of the Mavericks here), and this event, too, is structured to be a large-scale think tank group of leaders who, for a few days in Westlake Village, sit down and focus on finding real solutions to specific problems plaguing real estate today. 

So, what’s the message? T3 Summit may be an event limited to just 300 attendees but the idea behind it is certainly without limits. When was the last time you sat down with a thoughtful, thought-provoking group of leaders and engaged in serious discussion about the challenges set before you? The power of this exercise cannot be underestimated or undervalued. Change doesn’t happen on its own and definitely it doesn’t happen without meaningful conversation—like the kind that goes on at T3 Summit—meant to help leaders arrive at a solution that’s transformational and new. 

May 5, 2017

#113 Thoughts on Leadership: The Balance of Old and New

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in Northern California working from my home office then in Denver for the 2017 Real Trends Gathering of Eagles conference. This year marks a special one for the annual assembly of our country’s brightest and most innovative real estate leaders, as Real Trends is celebrating 30 years in business. Since the start of 2017, Steve Murray, editor and president of REAL Trends, Inc., has been publishing articles all about what the milestone means not only for the company but also for him. Murray said this in a recent story about the anniversary: “Things have changed—and not changed—since that first edition … It’s funny to think how the world has stayed remarkably similar over the past 30 years.”Here are some fun facts he shared about the real estate industry when REAL Trends first began:


With Steve Murray, editor and president of REAL Trends, Inc. at Gathering of Eagles 2017.

• “In 1987, there were more than 800,000 Realtors® in the U.S. Today, there are 1.2 million U.S. Realtors®, which means the population has grown substantially in that 30-year span. (A good fact to share with those who question if a real estate agent is crucial to the home-buying and selling process.)

• “Three decades ago, the Sales and Marketing Management Institute said online shopping for homes through television was the hot, new trend. While the Institute may have gotten the device wrong, we can all agree online—and mobile—dominate most buyers’ initial home search.

• “A study commissioned by NAR in 1987 featured this commentary: “Electronic advertising almost certainly will be tried and very likely will be economically viable.” (Well yes, you can say that again!)

It was with this interesting information in mind that I arrived at Gathering of Eagles on Wednesday, excited to learn about the changes happening in our industry but knowing, as Murray wisely pointed out, some things still remain very much the same.The agenda for the conference focused on celebrating the past with an attentive eye on the future, which fits squarely with exactly what Murray has been writing about in regards to REAL Trends’ 30-year anniversary


With Jim Collins, bestselling author of Good to Great, at Gathering of Eagles.

One of the highlights for me was a keynote by Good to Great bestselling author Jim Collins. (If you read last week’s Thursday Thoughts, you’ll remember I referenced Collins’ ideas; I’ve long been a fan of his insightful book and even used it as the blueprint in 2002 when building Intero Real Estate Services.) Collins spoke about his Twelve Questions, a sequence of question that, as he explained, “serve as a mechanism of disciplined thought for a leader and his or her team.” You can view those questions here, and as Collins recommends, discuss one question per month with your team to create a calendar year of disciplined thought. He then recommends repeating this practice the following year, tapping into the power of habitual learning and discussing each question at least once every year.

So, what’s the message? Throughout all these discussions, as we spoke about ways to digitally market, to streamline, to improve and bring your team from from good to great, I kept thinking about how critical it is to understand these cutting-edge, forward-thinking ideas and systems but to also know that the fundamentals, as Collins stressed in his keynote, must still be in place. This was especially true at Gathering of Eagles, where new topics were on the agenda but old friends gathered together to idea-share, catch up and learn. There’s nothing like that solid camaraderie, based on decades-long friendships, to inspire you and your business! (By the way, I saw my friend Dan Forsman, president and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Georgia Properties, at the conference and was able to help him celebrate his birthday. Happy birthday, Dan!) This close camaraderie is the very reason why, despite whatever SEO tricks you use to rank higher in Google or social media platforms you pursue to gain business speed, you must have the core values of leadership in place—a great team, a vibrant culture, a commitment to quality service, a network of mentors and old friends to guide you, a system of accountability—in order to reach your goals. That’s not to say the latest and greatest isn’t just so (it’s all important) but what’s more important is achieving a careful balance between the old and new, the digital and personal, the disruptive and the time-tested; it’s how you’ll find sustainable success and, like Steve Murray’s REAL Trends, remain in business for 30 years and counting!April 28, 2017


By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me first working from my home office in Northern California and then eastbound to Miami for the AREAA Global Luxury Summit, all about the rise of Miami as an international powerhouse for high-end real estate investment. Speaking of real estate, spring is such a critical time in the cycle of a real estate agent—we’re right in the middle of spring selling season—and it’s often a time when we expect a lot and reality may not always deliver. That’s why I want to write today about the importance of celebration, (as you know, I always say we must celebrate the small wins), and how critical it is to make time to celebrate as we move onward and upward in our careers. Oprah Winfrey once said, “The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.”I recently attended a top-agent awards dinner at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New Jersey Properties where celebration took center stage. The event was an impressive, elegant evening honoring a group of incredibly hard working agents, held at the beautiful Liberty House Restaurant in Jersey City. Now, I know most of you reading this weren’t there, so let me set the scene: Floor-to-ceiling windows framed an early afternoon New York City skyline view, special presentations recognized top agents and top teams companywide for 2016, and a talented a capella band, Blue Jupiter, serenaded the crowd and even wished me a happy birthday! (Yes, as it happened, this awards celebration fell right around my birthday.)While the event undoubtedly celebrated the achievements of top New Jersey Properties agents, it was also a testament to the strong leadership team that has made this brokerage such a success. Bill Keleher, chairman and CEO at New Jersey Properties, has done a fantastic job of getting “the right people in the right seats on the bus,” as ,Good to Great bestselling author Jim Collins might say. Chris Brown is the dynamic new president of New Jersey Properties, Seymour Litwin serves as vice chairman, Nancy Litwin comanages the firms top producing Martinsville office, Steve Janett is New Jersey Properties’ executive vice president and chief operating officer, and Michele Giordano is New Jersey Properties executive vice president and chief marketing officer.So, what’s the message? Celebrate your success, for these happy times will get you through the tougher ones. Collins famously wrote this about mediocrity: “Those who build and perpetuate mediocrity … are motivated more by the fear of being left behind.” Great leaders—like Bill, Chris, Seymour, Nancy, Steve and Michele at New Jersey Properties—do not welcome mediocrity and fear greatness, in fact, they embrace greatness, they CELEBRATE it! Whenever you achieve something great—whether it be the top agent ranking in your brokerage or a new client—be sure to stop and celebrate your accomplishment; a memorable celebration like the one organized by New Jersey Properties will motivate you to create even more reasons to celebrate yet again.

Chris Brown, president of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New Jersey Properties, speaking to the elite group of agents.

William Keleher, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New Jersey Properties.

Chris Brown, president of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New Jersey Properties, and Christine “Christy” Casey, broker/manager of the Basking Ridge Office, accepting “Office of the Year” for 2016.

From left: Chris Brown, president of New Jersey Properties, Seymour Litwin, New Jersey Properties vice chairman, Nancy Litwin, New Jersey Properties branch manager and member of ownership team, Sam Joseph, sales associate of the New Jersey Properties Montclair office, Gino Blefari, CEO of HSF Affiliates LLC, Bill Keleher, chairman and CEO of New Jersey Properties, Steve Janett, COO of New Jersey Properties..

From left: Chris Brown, New Jersey Properties president, Steve Janett, COO of New Jersey Properties, Seymour Litwin, New Jersey Properties vice chairman, Nancy Litwin, New Jersey Properties branch manager and member of ownership team, Tim Deluccia, New Jersey Properties broker associate of the Martinsville office, Gino Blefari, CEO of HSF Affiliates LLC, abd Bill Keleher, CEO of New Jersey Properties.

April 21, 2017

#111 Thoughts on Leadership: Love What You Do

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me in Las Vegas and then Phoenix, meeting with iconic broker, Mark Stark, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Arizona Properties, Nevada Properties and California Properties, and his teams at Arizona Properties and Nevada Properties. As usual, I’ve been traveling a lot lately and with the upcoming holiday weekend, airports have been more crowded, roads filled with more traffic and getting around has been just a little bit harder. It’s during these somewhat stressful times I must constantly remind myself how much I absolutely love what I do—serving our network brokerages and helping people achieve their goals faster than they would in my absence.I’ve often said I love what I do largely because of who I get to do it with, and that means working with great leaders like Mark, whose energy, enthusiasm and dedication to his agents is beyond compare.To inspire you today and to get you thinking about this important concept, I’ve collected some of my favorite quotes related to the idea of loving what you do:

• “Choose a job you love and you will never work a day in your life.” – Confucius

• “When you find that job that causes you to be excited every day—forget about the pay—with the people you love, doing what you love, it doesn’t get any better than that.” – Warren Buffett

• “The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.” – Steve Jobs

• “What I know is, is that if you do work that you love, and the work fulfills you, the rest will come.” – Oprah Winfrey

So, what’s the message? You MUST love what you do! I’ve been speaking recently about the power of unleashing your full potential—at Sales Convention, at network brokerages, on webinars—and you can only unleash this potential if you are involved in work you love. The advice might sound simple but it is simply profound. In fact, not a day has gone by since I first started in the real estate industry more than 30 years ago that I haven’t woken up, completed my morning routine and felt grateful to get to do the work I love for yet another day. It’s an important reminder and at the very essence of our careers and our livelihoods. If you don’t love what you do, don’t do it. But if you do, you’ll automatically and willingly put every inch of your being into your work … except because it’s work you truly love, it won’t ever feel like work at all.April 14, 2017

#110 Thoughts on Leadership: Not of Decline But of Progress

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me in Baltimore, MD and Lancaster, PA to meet with the outstanding team at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Homesale Realty, led by Co-founder and Managing Director Doug Rebert; Co-founder and Managing Director Pete Slaugh; Rick Doyle, president of realty operations; and CFO Rod Messick. I delivered both my 7 Principles of Success and How to Create An Unstoppable Mindset Routine to the members of the brokerage and speaking against the backdrop of these extraordinary cities made me really think about the significance of both Lancaster and Baltimore’s rich history, and how some of the central themes in my talks are echoed in the cities’ past.On Feb. 7, 1904, the city of Baltimore was struck by what is now known as the Great Baltimore Fire. More than 1,500 buildings burned as a result of the devastating inferno in a span of just 30 hours. Exactly 1,231 firefighters were called to Baltimore to get the blaze under control, though in the end 140 acres of land in Central Baltimore were completely destroyed, 35,000 residents were left unemployed and the city faced $150 million in damages (equal to about $3.84 billion today). By most accounts, the Great Baltimore Fire is considered the third-worst conflagration in American history. It’s also known as one of the greatest examples of perseverance in the face of certain despair.Speaking to the forlorn members of his city—then a crumbling town of ash and despair—Major Robert McLane had this to say to the Baltimore News: “To suppose that the spirit of our people will not rise to the occasion is to suppose that our people are not genuine Americans. We shall make the fire of 1904 a landmark not of decline, but of progress.”The city of Baltimore came together like none other after that message, and not only rebuilt from ruination in a matter of years but also used the fire as an opportunity to adopt a city building code that required fireproof materials—such as granite pavers—to be incorporated into all city structures.Lancaster boasts a similar story of resilience in the face of strife. After the end of the American Revolution, the city of Lancaster became an iron-foundry center, providing Americans with two of the most common products necessary for pioneers to settle west in the new Frontier: the Conestoga wagon (named after the Conestoga River running through the city), and the Pennsylvania long rifle, devised by gunsmith and U.S. congressman William Henry. In other words, for Lancaster, the aftermath of a deadly war was increased industrial productivity that directly shaped the very borders of what America would soon become.So, what’s the message? Well, it’s one I deliver over and over in both my 7 Principles to Success and Mindset Routine talks; staying positive is easy when times are good but it’s when things get hard that you really need to maintain your focus and composure. Why? Because it’s the hard that makes you great. It’s the willingness to do the hard that makes you great. When things are easy, your abilities aren’t tested or stretched or pushed to their limits, and any sudden success achieved can just as quickly be lost. A true leader with the right mindset to succeed is one who looks at a war-torn town and sees industrial opportunity or one who finds his or her city burned to the ground and from those ashes, sees a chance to rebuild into something even greater than before.April 7, 2017

#109 Thoughts on Leadership: Learning from Mavericks

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me in Tampa, Florida for the biannual meeting of the Mavericks, a small think tank of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices network CEOs who get together to exchange ideas and foster company growth. This particular meeting was hosted by Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Properties Group and the brokerage’s leadership team of Broker/Owner Dewey Mitchell and Broker/Owner Allen Crumbley. For three days, we bonded—eating breakfast, lunch and dinner together between meetings—and for three days we discussed Florida Property Group’s strengths and challenges. (At the next Mavericks meeting Dewey and Allen will report back on changes implemented.) It was an inspiring conference, as it always is, and I had four key takeaways from the meeting that I want to share with you now:Openness and transparency are vitally important among leaders. During this meeting, brokerage leaders share numbers from the past year, wins, losses … everything. All the figures were out in the open, readily available for us to assess and review. Why is this so critical? Because transparency fosters trust and creates solutions to problems that are steeped in pure fact. Transparency, I should note, is also craved by your team members. In a digital age when information is readily available at the touch of a tiny screen, all leaders must be transparent with their employees to fully connect and inspire them to grow.Some of the best ideas happen when the meeting ends (or hasn’t started yet). We spent the better part of three days together as a Mavericks team and while our formal meetings were incredibly productive, it was during the breakfast, lunch, dinner breaks and downtime (even on bus trips we took together) that some of the best and most inspiring ideas were formed and shared. In her book, The Creative Brain, Harvard psychologist Shelley Carson has this to say about the flow of ideas: “Everyone has a built-in censoring system that filters thoughts and stimuli from the outside world before they reach conscious awareness. Learning to loosen up this mental filtering to allow more novel ideas to flow through is one of the biggest challenges for people who don’t think of themselves as creative.” Taking Dr. Carson’s idea back to the breakfast, lunch and dinner table, we’re in a less heightened state of censorship during the casual times than we would be when sitting in a conference room, therefore our filtering system is less active and the creative ideas can more freely be shared.When it comes to positive change, accountability is key. At every Mavericks meeting, we make sure to have the previous host broker report on the progress made since we made suggestions for his or her brokerage. During this meeting, for instance, Steve Roney, broker/owner at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Utah Properties (where we held our October meeting), shared how his company has grown and advanced. As you know, the fourth discipline in the 4DX system is to “create a cadency of accountability,” because no matter how amazing, creative and innovative your plan or ideas may be, they don’t mean much if they’re not seen through to a successful conclusion.New eyes see old things in new ways. It’s interesting how analyzing both the good and bad at another brokerage can open your own eyes about what’s working or not working at your own. When turn a critical eye toward someone or some business entity, you’re able to more clearly realize what you may be lacking in your own business strategy.So, what’s the message? When you get together with your peers to create positive change, it’s amazing how quickly you can see results. That’s precisely the reason I encourage everyone to attend the Sales Convention and all of our events throughout the year; these events all represent opportunities for us to connect but they’re also chances for us to view our own businesses through the lens of others. Attendees are doing things to win business we may not have thought about and they can, in their own ways, expose the weaknesses in our strategies we wouldn’t have otherwise seen. Bottom line: Gathering with peers, collaborating and exchanging ideas—whether it’s in a classroom, conference room or during a coffee break—is really one of the best ways to grow.March 31, 2017

#108 Thoughts on Leadership: Prepare to Succeed

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me first in Northern California and next in Phoenix, where I’m preparing for the upcoming Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices 2017 Sales Convention. Our theme for convention is “Unleashing Your Potential,” and the topic was very much on my mind as I watched the NFL Combine this week.The event, this year held Feb. 28 – March 6, brings together more than 300 of the best college football players from across the nation to participate in the National Invitational Camp in Indiananapolis, IN. Top executives, coaching staffs, player personnel departments and medical personnel from all 32 NFL teams are in attendance and evaluate the players ahead of the upcoming NFL Draft. The NFL Combine is basically an intense, physical and mental grind, a four-day job interview for these hopeful athletes and a critical step in helping them achieve their dream of playing in the NFL.Over the course of four days, players are measured on very specific tasks: How long their vertical jump is, how far they can broad jump, the speed at which they run a 40-yard dash, how much they can bench press. For instance, this year, NFL hopeful John Ross, wide receiver for the Washington Huskies, was the top-performer at the 40-yard dash, clocking in at an astounding 4.22 seconds. His incredible run broke the previous record in the 40, held by Arizona Cardinal’s running back Chris Johnson, who ran it in 4.24 seconds nine years ago. Another standout performer, Obi Melifonwu, (defensive back from University of Connecticut) practically defied gravity by jumping 11’9” in the broad jump.When I think about the NFL Combine, I’m reminded of the concept of meritocracy, a word Dallas Cowboys Quarterback Tony Romo himself used in his now-famous November 2016 speech when he addressed the injury that kept him sidelined for the season. “Football is a meritocracy,” Romo said. “You aren’t handed anything.” In other words, your accomplishments are based purely on merit; not who you know, not what your background or experience is; you play because you deserve to be in the game.Malcolm Gladwell is another famous proponent of meritocracies. In his book, Outliers: The Story of Success, he defines success as the end result of individuals—outliers who become the best in their industry, whether it be sports, science, business, music—because they put in incredible amounts of time and effort to achieve extraordinary results.So, what’s the message? The idea that we achieve success not because of our innate talent but because we have talent yet keep working to improve gets us back to the NFL Combine. Yes, those athletes achieved astounding results and their athletic prowess is undeniable; however, the NFL Combine is just the start of their journey to the NFL. Next comes the real work; they have to prove they deserve to be on the field. Tom Brady, arguably the greatest quarterback of all time, put up miserable numbers in his combine. His 40 time stands as one of the slowest among active NFL starting quarterbacks at 5.28 seconds and he also struggled with his vertical jump reaching only 24.5 inches. Today, he’s a five-time Super Bowl Champion. Why? Because despite his dismal combine numbers, he prepared harder than anyone and worked every single day since he was drafted in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL draft to prove that it’s not just about how far you can jump or how fast you can run, it’s about how much heart you put into what you do to unleash your potential and win. The concept is reiterated by Gladwell who wrote, “To become an expert in something it takes 10,000 hours of practice. The closer psychologists look at the careers of outliers, the less important is innate talent and the more important is preparation.”March 9, 2017

#107 Thoughts on Leadership: A Winning Culture

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me first in Atlanta to meet with the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Georgia Properties team and next in Minneapolis for a HomeServices of America, Inc. monthly board meeting. As I traveled from the East to the Midwest, there was one idea on my mind and it’s been center stage at almost every brokerage I’ve visited so far this year: culture.Extensive articles, studies, books have all been written about this very subject, and the proliferation of literature on the topic speaks to how important it is for the success of a company. Organizations may have the latest technology, the greatest talent, the hardest-working employees but if they don’t have a positive culture, what do they really have? Culture is a sustainable competitive advantage and it’s also a byproduct of strong, inspiring leadership.At Georgia Properties, the leadership team—with the servient leader, CEO Dan Forsman, at the helm—has fostered a culture that is enthusiastic, energetic and esoteric; theirs is a culture not often experienced at a real estate company. When I delivered my keynote on the “7 Principles of Success” to the team, they not only fully absorbed what I had to say but also asked engaging questions that told me these Georgia Properties agents would immediately put this advice to good use in their businesses.Culture also translates into profitable success for Georgia Properties; the company has increased its share of the luxury market by 43% year over year and is dominating the new-home market in Georgia. Additionally, they’re focused on cultivating young leaders within the brokerage to ensure a bright future for this vibrant company. All team members at Georgia Properties genuinely love what they do, an important key to success, and they also love who they do it with.I’d even go so far as to say that Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices network brokerages feature some of the most dynamic cultures of any in our entire industry. And on this note, Entrepreneur magazine happens to agree; the publication recently ranked Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Ambassador Real Estate as 12th in the large company category of their Top Company Cultures list for 2017. This list, a comprehensive study of U.S.-based businesses exhibiting high-performance cultures, recognized Ambassador Real Estate for creating an exceptional culture that drives employee engagement, exceeds expectation and directly impacts company success.“In my mind great company cultures are created top down so it’s absolutely essential if you want a great culture to have your leaders on the same page,” Vince Leisey, president at Ambassador Real Estate, told me when I asked his opinion on the relationship between effective company culture and leadership. Leisey was honored by Entrepreneur’s distinction and said there was an overwhelming sense of pride felt by his entire organization after learning about the news. “We feel like we’ve accomplished this together,” he said. “Because culture happens when you create an environment where every single person actually wants to come to work and where each member of the team contributes to the energy, enthusiasm and excitement experienced by all.”What’s the message? Culture is there whether a leader creates it or not—it’s an ever-present function of every organization no matter what—so in order to have a culture that works in a company’s favor, every leader must be proactive in generating and instilling the kind of meaningful culture that will inspire lasting success.March 3, 2017

#106 Thoughts on Leadership: Are You Prepared?

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me first in Pinehurst, NC on the very golf course which, since 1898 has been the playing ground for golf championships as well as champions of the sport like Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Payne Stewart. I was at the historic Carolina Hotel in Pinehurst for the GearUp 2017 awards ceremony hosted by the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Carolinas Realty family of brokerages, led by president and CEO Tommy Camp, with Maureen Sammon, president and CEO of HomeServices Lending in attendance. The event was filled with hundreds of passionate agents, all gearing up for a successful year ahead.Next, I flew to Dallas to rehearse with my team for our upcoming Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Sales Convention in Phoenix. It always strikes me as interesting how right around this time each year, as I prepare to address thousands of our network members from our general session stage, I receive several messages wishing me good luck at the convention. I always appreciate the support and the phrase is a fascinating one to analyze in the context of effective leadershipWhat does “good luck” mean anyway?As my good friend Dwight Clark, former All-Pro wide receiver for the San Francisco 49ers and five-time Super Bowl champion says, “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” In other words, opportunity knocks—luck stands at your threshold—and when you hear this fortunate sound, you know exactly how to open the door, what to say when luck is standing there, staring you right in the face. So, you shake luck’s hand—a firm handshake, of course—and then you make things happen.When an opportunity is missed, when luck comes knocking and no one is home to answer the door, we can attribute this to a leader’s insufficient preparation. Simply put: An opportunity arrived and they just weren’t ready. It’s an unfortunate circumstance that not only affects the leader but also affects every member of the leader’s team. Preparation is like that—a trickle-down entity with the power to allow companies and leaders to very quickly rise or fall.Another important component to preparation is accountability. Hold yourself accountable or find someone who will. In fact, a recent Forbes article described preparation as the act of “being proactive to deliver on a responsibility you are accountable for.” As a leader, accountability is a never-ending facet of every initiative, project and transaction you tackle; without accountability, preparation becomes meaningless, opportunities become harder to grasp and luck more difficult to capitalize on.Here’s what five famous leaders have to say about the importance of preparation:

• “Expect the best. Prepare for the worst.” – Muhammad Ali

• “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin

• “Most people have the will to win. Few have the will to prepare to win.” – Bobby Knight

• “Preparation, I have often said, is rightly two-thirds of any venture.” – Amelia Earhart

• “You were born to win, but to be a winner, you must plan to win, prepare to win, and expect to win.” – Zig Ziglar

So, what’s the message? Preparation as a major factor to compelling leadership is nothing new. In fact, Confucius once said, “Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure.” Yet even this concept, thousands of years in the making, is overlooked as a critical component to leadership today. Because while preparation is not a sure-fire way to accomplish absolutely everything in business or life, remember that even if there is preparation without success, there is never success without preparation.

February 24, 2017

#105 Why Sales Convention Matters

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels took me to Northern California to meet with Gretchen Pearson, president of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Drysdale Properties and her team—what a great group of real estate agents and managers! I also participated in meetings and conference calls as my team gears up for our big event in Arizona.It’s hard to believe it but we’re just one month away from the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices 2017 Sales Convention in Phoenix and if you haven’t yet registered, let me give you five reasons why you should absolutely attend:1. You’ll leave with one new idea that will be good for at least one new transaction. Sign up and get your CIPS designation to learn how to work with international clients, attend our university sessions to discover new ways to market yourself and your properties, take notes at General Session as keynote speakers National Baseball Hall of Famer Johnny Bench and renowned economist Shawn DuBravac share their insights; no matter what you do, you’ll be learning, growing, changing and figuring out how to win that next client in a way you wouldn’t have thought of before. (Also, in many cases you can write off Sales Convention as a business deduction, so it practically pays for itself, though I’d recommend speaking to your tax professional for more details.)2. You’ll meet at least one person who will share a positive habit you can incorporate into your routine. Whether it’s taking daily vitamins, reviewing your goals right when you wake up, discovering a new prospecting technique, learning about a unique way this person serves buyers and sellers that you too can also implement, someone you run into and talk with at Sales Convention will share a gem of wisdom that will help you improve your own day … and your business.3. You’ll make a special connection that will turn into a referral down the road. The best feedback I receive about our events is when an agent comes up to me and says, “I met someone at Sales Convention last year from Chicago and a few months later one of my clients was relocating to the Chicago area; this agent was the perfect fit and I couldn’t have been happier to refer her with confidence, knowing I was putting one of my trusted clients in the hands of someone who I had built a personal relationship with!” The ROI of Sales Convention is immediate but it’s also long-term; you’re building a referral network that’s strong and widespread.4. It’s an opportunity to let people know you’re dedicated to improvement and growth. Share your Sales Convention story on Snapchat—we’ve got custom filters for that—go live on Facebook during an intriguing session, use our hashtag, #ReadySetGo2017 to digitally connect with attendees and post about our event, download our mobile app to share feedback, search our agenda and message attendees. The best connections happen in person but our industry is a mobile, digital one, so start these connections right from the phone in your hand.5. You’ll have a chance to recharge and have some fun. Stepping away from your office for a few days will be a healthy change of pace. I always stress the importance of balance and Sales Convention provides just that: the perfect mix of learning with leisure. Enjoy The Starting Block Theme Party Monday night and on Tuesday night, rock with GRAMMY award-winning band, Train, to benefit The Sunshine Kids. Fun is an underrated ingredient to success and downtime helps us maintain our focus when we do get back to work.Now here are some excuses to avoid:1. You’re too busy. No one is too busy to learn, grow and connect.2. There are no hotels. Actually there are. Go to visitphoenix.com, click on “Hotels & Resorts” and search through all available options in the city.3. You can’t afford it. Trust me, you can’t NOT afford it.4. I went there last year, why do I have to go again? That’s like saying I went to work yesterday, why do I have to go today?5. I won’t know anyone. Meeting new friends and contacts is the very definition of what a networking event is all about. Plus, the more you go, the more people you’ll know.So, what’s the message? It’s appropriate we should hold our event in Phoenix—the home of baseball spring training—because Sales Convention really is the spring training for your year in real estate. It’s where you’ll get inspired by new ideas to spark new business, learn about positive habits to impact your daily routine, make and solidify relationships to garner referrals, and do it all while having fun.Hope to see you there!P.S. If you’re planning to attend but haven’t registered, learn more about onsite registration here.February 17, 2017

#104 Thoughts on Leadership: The Mindset of a Champion

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me first in Las Vegas to speak with HomeServices Lending CEO and president Maureen Sammon and her team at HomeServices Lending’s Elite Producer Event. Next, it was off to Tucson to speak with our Real Living Real Estate network members for the annual Real Living Connection conference.At each event, I spoke about the importance of a positive mindset for effective leadership and the topic couldn’t be more top of mind than after this past Sunday’s historic Super Bowl LI game.As all of you know, the Patriots won the Super Bowl in a stunning overtime victory, claiming the Vince Lombardi Trophy I wrote about last week. The game—which many claim was the greatest Super Bowl played—boiled down to tactical errors made by the Atlanta Falcons and decisive execution on the part of the New England Patriots and their on-the-field leader, Tom Brady, and off-the-field leader, Bill Belichick.In total, the Patriots ran 93 plays during the course of the game while the Falcons ran almost half as much—46 plays. In the fourth quarter alone, when the Patriots truly turned the game around, New England ran 35 plays to Atlanta’s 13. Yet, it wasn’t just play-making that was the active ingredient in a New England championship; it was also a mindset maintained by the entire team that while they might be down on the scoreboard they were far from out.Famously, Belichick worked his team harder than ever in the days and weeks leading up to the Super Bowl—he even tried to start a “no days off” chant at the Patriots parade in Boston to reflect his leadership philosophy—and the results certainly showed. “We put in a lot of work,” said Patriots receiver and special teams standout Matthew Slater. “We’re practicing in pads on Super Bowl week. We’re squatting 80% of our maxes on Super Bowl week. I mean, we worked for this. Our bodies were ready. Our minds were ready, and we just kept believing one another.”To pull off a Super Bowl win, belief was truly the name of the game. Every single player on the New England Patriots had to believe they could come back. The team also had to believe in Tom Brady, who remained calm despite his team’s worst deficit of 28-3 in the third quarter. And Brady’s composure is the mark of not just a good leader but a great one. Any leader can lead through success. That’s easy. But it’s the hard that makes you great, as I say. The true test of a leader is when the chips are down, when this leader is facing the greatest deficit in a Super Bowl game ever and you say something like, “OK, we need two touchdowns, a field goal and two 2-point conversions to take the Super Bowl into overtime,” and without blinking an eye the leader would reply, “I got this.”So what’s the message? Truer leadership has never been so clearly defined as the New England Patriots rallying together and winning this Super Bowl game. Yet it was no coincidence or no capricious stroke of luck that New England wound up the victors; it was a mix of experience, determination, perseverance and the belief that winning was possible. Brady was once quoted as saying, “If you don’t believe in yourself why is anyone else going to believe in you?” And that’s the truth. Leadership, success, victory … it must start always with you.February 10, 2017

#103 Thursday Thoughts on Leadership: Winning is A Habit

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me first in Irvine for a meeting with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties CEO Mary Lee Blaylock and the California Properties team then off to Dallas to meet with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices PenFed Realty Texas agent Russell Rhodes, leader of the Russell Rhodes team, PenFed Realty Texas Broker/president Rick Wylie and the entire PenFed Realty Texas team. After that I flew to Detroit and spoke with agents, managers and leadership at Real Living Kee Realty. For each meeting, I delivered several principles for success, specific ideas to follow in order to win.It’s no surprise winning is on my mind because I just received a text from my good friend and former All-Pro wide receiver for the San Francisco 49ers as well as five-time Super Bowl champion, Dwight “The Catch” Clark, who’s on his way to Houston for Super Bowl Media Week appearances. Each summer, as soon as pre-season begins, teams have one Wildly Important Goal (WIG) in mind: Make it to the Super Bowl and then, win the Vince Lombardi Trophy. This trophy—a football resting atop a pedestal that measures 22 inches and 7 pounds of sterling silver glory—is only given to the team that has proven to be the very best in the world.Why is it called the Vince Lombari Trophy, you may ask? Why not Super Bowl Championship Trophy? Well, it’s an interesting story. On Jan. 15, 1967, the first-ever Super Bowl was played between the Green Bay Packers of the National Football League—whose coach at the time was Vince Lombardi—and the Kansas City Chiefs of the AFL. Green Bay won that game handily by a score of 35-10 and would go on to defeat the Oakland Raiders in the Super Bowl the following year, 33-14. After Super Bowl II, Lombardi retired as head coach of the Packers but not before solidifying his legacy as one of the greatest coaches and leaders of all time.Still, for the next few years—until 1970 to be exact—Super Bowl winners would receive what was called the World Professional Football Championship Trophy. When Lombardi suddenly died of cancer in 1970, the trophy was renamed the Vince Lombardi Trophy before it was awarded to the Baltimore Colts after they beat the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl V.Some might imagine the trophy bore Lombardi’s namesake because he was the leader responsible for bringing his team to Super Bowl victory in Super Bowl I and II but it’s really so much more than that; the name, the man, the legend known as Vince Lombari is absolutely synonymous with winning. Lombardi once said, “winning is a habit,” and for him, it truly was. During his 10-year coaching career, Lombardi’s teams won 96 regular season games, which amounted to a .728 winning percentage. He also had an astounding .840 winning percentage in all the pre-seasons he coached and during post-season, was virtually untouchable with a .900 winning percentage, which included five NFL titles.So, what’s the message? It’s one I’m sure New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, quarterback Tom Brady, Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn and quarterback Matt Ryan are repeating over and over leading up to Sunday’s big game; it’s the idea of habitual, unwavering devotedness to a single, achievable goal -- a Super Bowl victory. That’s a powerful message we can all take with us, whether we’re attempting to win a listing, a deal or a new client. We must remain focused, steadfast and unflappable in our devotion to win. “Winning is not a sometimes thing,” Lombardi once said. “It’s an all-the-time thing. You don’t win once in a while, you don’t do the right thing once in a while, you do them right all the time. Winning is a habit.”P.S. If you’re looking for a good read to learn more about Vince Lombardi, I recommend When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi.February 3, 2017

#102 Thoughts on Leadership: Rethinking Your Perspective

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in Irvine, CA and the trip to Southern California has afforded me a healthy dose of perspective. On Tuesday morning, I moderated a lively Book REview session—if you don’t know, Book REview is our quarterly online discussion of a business book—then sat in meetings with our national REthink Council for the next two days.For me, reading (and listening) to books is a way of life. I’m never NOT starting a new book. Why? Because new eyes see old things in new ways. Reading about the perspectives of others helps broaden, sharpen and focus your own. Our book for this week’s Book REview was The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson, all about small changes (I call them small wins) you can make to ultimately drive big results. Olson also emphasizes the importance of maintaining a positive mindset from the minute you wake up so that lasting success is less of an uncertainty and more of an inevitability.“Focusing on the actions is not enough,” he writes. “Because it’s the attitude behind the actions that keeps those actions in place.”After Book REview finished, I stepped across the hall and into a space where positive attitude reigned: the 2017 Irvine meeting of the national REthink Council. Just walking through the door and into that room you can practically feel the palpable passion these millennial, top-producing agents have for their craft. They shared best practices, brainstormed ideas, spoke about their specific goals and encouraged each other with fresh perspectives and insights.After the REthink meeting it was off to Costa Mesa, CA to record a webinar with Debbie De Grote, founder/CEO of Excelleum Coaching & Consulting. Our webinar was an opportunity for agents to learn new ways to approach the listing presentation, again stressing the idea that to learn is to grow.So, what’s the message? Oprah Winfrey once said, “Surround yourself only with people who are going to lift you higher,” and it’s true. Take a look at your five closest friends, colleagues, associates … are they lifting you higher? Do they have the kind of positive mindset Olson stresses as being vital to success? By constantly learning from others, you ensure that you’re forever pushing yourself forward to achieve even greater personal and professional rewards with each passing day.January 27, 2017


By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me first in Denver for the launch of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Innovative Real Estate. The brokerage, led by Brokers/Owners Scott Nordby and Lora Nordby—two fantastic leaders in the real estate industry—operates four offices with more than 160 agents. It also consistently dominates the Denver market in key production categories and stands among the Top 10 brokerages in the competitive Denver metro area. When I say I’m proud and honored this fantastic team joined the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices family, I really mean it.While attending the event, I ran into my good friend and author, Larry Kendall, who just so happened to be speaking at the launch. I’ve long been a proponent of Larry’s Ninja Selling techniques, which are brutally effective ways to increase production and create sustained improvement based on strong relationship-building skills. It was a happy coincidence to see Larry in Colorado and watch him deliver a keynote that energized and invigorated the already-motivated crowd.Speaking of motivation, I received a dose of my own as I flew from the Rocky Mountains to the Top of the Rock (or close enough, anyway) to meet with leaders from our brand-new NYC-based affiliate, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New York Properties. It’s been a long-awaited homecoming to see our brand amidst the skyscrapers of New York but it’s a city that couldn’t be a better fit.“My phone hasn’t stopped ringing,” said Ellie Johnson, president of New York Properties, who says since the company launched Jan. 9, the referrals have been coming in non-stop. “It’s not just potential buyers who are calling me,” she explained. “These are solid clients who want to sell their property and use our team to help.”Candace Adams, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New York Properties, New England Properties and Westchester Properties, affirmed the enthusiasm. “We’re excited about every day because every day we are growing.”I was standing at the company’s impressive Madison Avenue office space, a breathtaking locale with panoramic views of the East River stretching across floor-to-ceiling windows. But it’s not just the quintessential Manhattan scenery that makes New York Properties such an extraordinary member of the network; it’s also a powerful leadership team in Candace and Ellie that I have no doubt will drive the brokerage to even greater and greater success. Both seasoned and experienced industry veterans, Candace and Ellie are passionate leaders who believe in developing a strategic plan, executing on that plan and keeping a strong focus on the core values that will forever make their company great.So, what’s the message? Leadership drives growth and it’s up to leaders to deliver on the particular values that make their company unlike any other. At Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, those values are trust, integrity, stability and longevity, and each in turn gives agents and clients a sense of comfort in the strength of the services we offer and value we bring. As Ellie told me today from her spectacular new office on Madison Ave., “We might be new to New York City but the brand and what it represents is timeless.”January 20, 2017


By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in Irvine, CA at our HSF Affiliates LLC headquarters for a Sales and Service conference. The conference brought together our sales, service, operations, education and business consulting teams for a collective, three-day event filled with presentations, team-building activities and idea-sharing. As you know, I’m a firm believer in setting Wildly Important Goals (WIGs) and not just setting these WIGS but also limiting them to only the very most important achievements you need to get done. These were our two WIGs for the meeting:Increase the collaboration between our sales and service teams relative to working with our affiliates to help them achieve their goals faster than they would in our absence. Expand on and improve the way we connect with potential franchisees for whom we share our Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices value proposition and its important tenets of trust, integrity, stability and longevity.Beyond these two WIGs, it was an important conference for another reason: The face-to-face interaction of business associates who have in many cases worked together for years but haven’t yet had a chance to meet in person.Trust cannot be formed through a cell phone or computer screen. Trust, a pillar of not only our particular brokerage organization but also a pillar to sustainable success, must be built through genuine connection. This genuine connection, I should add, is found when you can look into someone’s eyes, shake his or her hand and be present in a room to feel the energy and passion this individual has for the work he or she does. That’s real trust. That’s real commitment to a shared goal. Emails and conference calls will never replace what it’s like to sit right beside your colleagues as they explain, illuminate and ultimately, inspire.So, what’s the message? I made it a point to sit through our entire three-day Sales and Service conference to hear every presentation given and proposal offered. In the end, I believe we achieved the two WIGs we set out to accomplish. How? Well, of course it was due in part to the strength of our great sales and service teams but it was also largely because of the face-to-face time we spent together that helped show us just how very strong we are. Business is done with people, not companies. And applying this concept to your own leadership style means the next time someone asks to schedule a conference call or video chat for your meeting, tell him or her you’d rather sit down in your office or grab a coffee instead. Trust me, the future success of whatever business endeavor you’re setting out to achieve will be better off because you did.January 13, 2017

#99 Thursday Thoughts on Leadership: Omaha, Change and an Exchange with The Oracle

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me in Omaha, NE attending the Berkshire Hathaway Energy January 2017 Executive Leadership Conference and related workshops. More than 350 officers and managers from throughout the enterprise attended the three-day event, which included cross-business panel discussions and presentations related to key challenges and opportunities.Panel discussions centered on managing competitive risk, modernizing assets, reducing our environmental footprint, enhancing cybersecurity plus an overview of political and economic effects on our businesses – all great material.I also loved the interactive Leading Change Workshop, which leveraged the creative input of participants for greater understanding of the impact of change on people and for leading changes to meet continuous goals.Still, without question, the highlight of our meetings came Tuesday afternoon when Berkshire Hathaway Energy Chairman and CEO Greg Abel conducted an interview with Warren Buffett. The session lasted about 60 minutes but we could have listened to Mr. Buffett for hours. He seemed all-knowledgeable with important perspectives on every question. At the same time, he was straightforward, witty and positive.When the interview concluded Mr. Buffett remained for questions from the audience. I wasn’t going to miss this opportunity so I quickly stepped up to the microphone. Admittedly, I was a little nervous but I got the words out -- a question relating to Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices’ interaction with other Berkshire Hathaway companies.Mr. Buffett gave me a welcoming smile and carefully answered my question, making eye contact with me the entire time.The moment was not lost on me and never will be.What’s the message? Very simple. Leaders, no matter who they are, must take the time for the people they lead. They listen, process and respond with respect and, in the process, enrich and grow their entire organization.

January 9, 2017

#98 Thoughts on Leadership: A Lesson for the New Year

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me in Northern California, working from my home office and preparing for the new year (although as I told you in an earlier post, my business plan has been set for months). Whenever I’m home, I meet my friend and former All-Pro defensive back for the Los Angeles Rams, Johnnie Johnson, for a weekly breakfast; this week was no exception. Fortunately, Johnnie’s sons, Kirk and Collin, were also in town—on break from college at the University of Texas—so they joined us as well.Now, when I say these boys come from impressive lineage, I mean it. Johnnie himself played for the Longhorns almost 40 years ago, a two-time, unanimous All-American defensive back during his time at Texas and in 1978, named by the New York Downtown Athletic Club as the nation’s best DB. As BleacherReport.com described Johnnie’s football legacy, “In other words, he won the Thorpe award before the Thorpe award was in existence.”His two football-playing sons, however, are shaping up to be no less impressive and have so far carved out quite a reputation as not only strong players on the field but also strong leaders off the field, motivating their fellow teammates and leading by example.It’s a lesson for every one of us to learn—leaders come in all shapes, sizes and ages—and a testament to the fact that true leadership, the kind that inspires, impassions and invigorates, cannot be defined by anything other than one’s own will to succeed.Former Texas Longhorns Head Coach Charlie Strong once said this about Kirk during a press conference: “I always tell my players if I want to just watch a player and watch the way things are done right, I tell them to watch Kirk Johnson.” Coach Strong went on to describe Kirk’s work ethic, technique and commitment to his job (he’s “always the first guy in the room”) and how those characteristics make him a shining example of leadership.What’s the message? I couldn’t say it any better than Collin Johnson did when he explained his football philosophy to 247sports.com: “It’s not really about the size of the dog in the fight; it’s about the size of the fight in the dog,” he said. “But I got both, because I have fight in me and heart.” (He’s also 6’6”, so he’s got some size himself.) This sentiment is similar to an idea echoed by John Wooden, who was widely regarded as one of the greatest basketball coaches of all time. Wooden said, “Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming." As the new year speedily approaches, think about these wise words and leadership concepts from Kirk, Collin and John Wooden. Remember, you shouldn’t feel limited or confined by what you don’t have; play full out and do your best to win every time. This way, no matter what the outcome of any situation, as long as you maintain a positive mindset and a fighting spirit, you can never really lose.

December 30, 2016

#97 Thoughts on Leadership: A Jolly Leader

By Gino Blefari

Everyone knows there’s not one mold from which great leaders are made. Yet it’s also known that all leaders share common traits: They inspire, they motivate, they bring about joy and cheer to every member of their team.What leader inspires, motivates and spreads cheer and joy more than jolly, old St. Nick? If you think about it, he’s got a lot on his cookie-filled plate. And we can’t deny he’s one busy guy. Here are three reasons why St. Nick is the epitome of a great leader:

  1. St. Nick must always maintain a positive mindset. In fact, we count on him to be steadfastly optimistic, always. Could you imagine a grumpy St. Nick?
  2. Time-management is hugely important. If his time isn’t managed properly, he can’t succeed at his job, shimmying down chimneys and delivering presents all across the world in the span of a single night.
  3. St. Nick abides by the four disciplines of execution: First, he focuses on his Wildly Important Goals: bringing cheer and holiday spirit 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 lists 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 assemble in the week ahead. (“This week I made ten nutcrackers and five dolls and next week I’ll make twelve nutcrackers and seven dolls …”)
So what’s the message? St. Nick’s greatness as a leader also springs from his universality. We can relate to certain aspects of his leadership style and take whatever works best for us, which is exactly as it should be. Because the holiday season means so many things to so many different people. For some, it might be about spreading joy, observing the spirit of the season, spending time with friends and family; for others, it’s about reflecting on the year gone by and resolving the make this new one even better.No matter what this holiday season means to you, my hope is that it’s one filled with health, happiness, peace, prosperity and joy for one and all.Happy Holidays,GinoDecember 23, 2016

#96 Thursday Thoughts on Leadership: Our Latest Homeowner Sentiment Survey

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in Southern California for leadership meetings, our HSF Affiliates December Town Hall meeting and our team’s annual holiday celebration. I arrive in Irvine at the ideal time, just as we released Q4’s Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices’ Homeowner Sentiment Survey to wrap up the year with a consumer-centric bow.The major headline of our latest survey results found interest rates are on the minds of consumers, with optimism reigning for all demographics; current and prospective homeowners—particularly Millennials—remain enthusiastic about the state of the U.S. real estate market, even as they expressed concern over the prospects of rising interest rates.In fact, those concerns are not unfounded. Wednesday the Federal Reserve announced a raise in interest rates, the second increase in 10 years and the first since last December. Effective Dec. 15, 2016, the FOMC voted unanimously to raise the target range for the federal funds rate to .25% to .75%.What does this mean for real estate? Well, to answer that question, let’s remember although a rate hike can grab headlines and easily create unease among prospective homeowners, this increase actually signals an improving, healthy U.S. economy and that’s always a good thing for real estate.Though first-time home buyers may not have the same perspective as those who have owned homes for decades, rates—despite the latest rise—remain near historic lows. Translation: It’s still an excellent time to buy a home.Here are a few more highlights from our survey I found particularly interesting:

  • 66% of current homeowners and 63% of prospective homeowners view the U.S. real estate market favorably—a sentiment that has remained steady throughout 2016.
  • Millennials (in our survey, defined as people ages 18-34) were the most optimistic generation, with 74% reporting a favorable view, a statistic representing a 15-percentage point jump year-over-year.
  • Two-thirds of Gen-Xers (ages 35-50) also expressed a favorable view—an 8-percentage point increase since the same time last year.
  • In terms of interest rates, 76% of current homeowners and 79% of prospective homeowners cite increasing interest rates as a challenge impacting the real estate market today; these figures represent 16- and 18- percentage point jumps, respectively, from the same time last year.
  • Of current homeowners, 44% and 70% of prospective buyers said they would feel anxious if mortgage rates went up, representing 11- and 8-percentage point jumps from last year, respectively.
So, what’s the message? It’s up to us as real estate professionals to continue guiding clients in understanding overwhelmingly positive fundamentals -- low mortgage rates, favorable property valuations, tax benefits and last but not least, safety and sanctuary in the place you call home. This message is a simple one: Real estate remains one of the most attractive long-term investments a consumer should make.December 15, 2016

#95 Thoughts on Leadership: An Uber Idea

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in Boca Raton, FL but instead of talking about my meetings in the Sunshine State, I want to instead share a brilliant marketing idea I discovered on a recent trip to Dallas. The idea brings to light the importance of creative disruption and how in business you must develop, consider, reconsider, refine and modify any proposed solution to a problem in order to achieve sustainable success.So, what’s the message? This concept of creative problem-solving, I must admit, is on my mind at the ideal time; just this afternoon, we announced four new members who will join our national REthink Council, a Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices program focused on changing the real estate market of today ... and tomorrow. The top-producing, Millennial members of this group have the passion and mindset needed to effect real progress. They’re all about collaboration, learning and are genuinely interested in helping our network brokers to perpetuate a vibrant culture. Learn more about our new national REthink Council appointments here.

December 9, 2016


By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in Northern California, taking a few days off before I get back to work on Friday. (Yes, you read that right!) I know my usual Thursday Thoughts recount how I flew to New York on Monday and was in Arizona on Tuesday but this week, I stayed put and did something that is important, powerful—yet underrated—for all leaders to do: I recharged.In The Power of Full Engagement, an influential book about leadership by best-selling authors Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz, the mindful duo had this to say about sprinters vs. long-distance runners:“Think for a moment about the look of many long-distance runners: gaunt, sallow, slightly sunken and emotionally flat. Now visualize a sprinter … Sprinters typically look powerful, bursting with energy and eager to push themselves to their limits. The explanation is simple. No matter how intense the demand they face, the finish line is clearly visible 100 or 200 meters down the track. We, too, must learn to live our lives as a series of sprints—fully engaging for a period of time and then fully disengaging and seeking renewal before jumping back into the fray to face whatever challenges confront us.”How does that relate to the way in which we should lead? Thoughtfully, attentively, fully engaged and ready to win but conscious that in order to keep up this level of intense focus, we must take breaks that allow our minds and bodies to disengage, relax and prepare for our next “sprint.”So, what’s the message? Be a sprinter. As the busy holiday season approaches, make sure you’re taking time—block it out in your schedule—to recharge and step away from it all before beginning your next sprint. In my time management class, I teach that you should schedule yourself out a year in advance. And what is the first thing I always say you should schedule? Time off. For now, this might mean taking a long stroll through your neighborhood, listening to your favorite band or audio book, walking your dog, enjoying a cup of coffee in solitude and silence. However or whatever “recharge” and time off means to you, be conscious about fitting it in. You’ll find that the quality of work you produce and the service you can provide to your clients when you’re charged up and completely engaged will be so much better because of it.

December 2, 2016

#93 Thoughts on Leadership: Be Thankful

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me in Northern California where on Monday afternoon I had the opportunity to have lunch with my good friend, Dwight Clark, former All-Pro wide receiver for the San Francisco 49ers and five-time Super Bowl champion. We were joined by another friend of mine, best-selling author Carmine Gallo, who wrote some of my all-time favorite business books, including: Talk Like Ted, The Storyteller’s Secret and The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs. Together, we spoke about the challenges and rewards of business, sports and life in general.


With Dwight Clark and Carmine Gallo at lunch on Monday in Northern California.

Carmine had just come off the heels of a fascinating Forbes interview with Steve Young, Hall of Fame quarterback, who wrote a book about leadership called QB. In his memoir, Steve talks about overcoming obstacles and reveals the habits that turned him from an eighth-string back-up quarterback at BYU to a Hall of Fame pro ball player. (You can watch the interview here.)

Dwight told us he had just attended a party that past Saturday night for Eddie DeBartolo, former owner of the 49ers and recent inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and was planning to attend another party Monday night hosted by U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein, also organized to honor Eddie’s induction. Both celebrations provided Dwight and his past 49ers teammates the chance to reminisce about their days playing and winning championships. “We weren’t just a family on Sundays,” Eddie had said in his Hall of Fame acceptance speech. “We were a family every single day.” The camaraderie at that party, decades after these players won their Super Bowl rings, further proves Eddie’s point.

Another important point Eddie stressed was how significant every single person in the 49ers organization was to the success of the team as a whole.

“I understand that our success wasn’t just on the owner and the players, but on everybody,” he said. “I stand here today for the equipment managers and the groundskeepers, and the laundry crew who worked hard every day. I stand here for the executive assistants, the PR team and the interns who worked through the weekends. I stand here for the scouts and the bus drivers, and the cooks and the schedulers and (hot) dog vendors, and the community reps who might never ever see their name in lights, but who are every bit as important to building a winning football franchise, as the players we root for on Sunday.”

(During our meal with Carmine, Dwight also shared how Bill Walsh, former 49ers head coach, played a hugely important role in Dwight’s NFL career, a story you can read in its entirety here.)

As I sat there at lunch between two great men—the first, arguably one of the best communicators in the game and the second an All-Pro wide receiver—I couldn’t help but think how thankful I was to be among such inspiring leaders in their respective fields.

To be a great leader, one must learn from the wisdom of others, who hold experiences and knowledge that varies vastly from your own. That’s how you grow and ultimately, how you can lead with a smarter, more open and more holistic approach.

John F. Kennedy once said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” Inherent in the concept of learning from those around you is the concept of gratitude because we must always be thankful for the lessons these leaders so selflessly impart for no other reason than to help us improve and succeed. As Thanksgiving approaches, this concept of generous idea-sharing is especially significant for me, and one I hope you all consider as you gather with loved ones for your turkey dinner this year.

So what’s the message? Leaders, as you know, are not born, they’re made, and the fabric of leaders is sewn from all the intelligent, inspiring people around them. Listening to Carmine and Dwight talk about what they do best during our lunch, I realized there is nothing more I could be thankful for than every single leader who has inspired me from the beginning of my career to this very moment, sitting here writing this blog post to you. On Thanksgiving, be thankful for your family, be thankful for your friends, be thankful for every single person in your life because they’ve all played such an important role in shaping who you are today … and who you’ll be tomorrow.

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 24, 2016

#92 Thoughts on Leadership: Scout Law and Leaders

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me in Northern California, Arizona, Southern California and then back to Northern California. While in Los Angeles, I had the opportunity to attend an event honoring recently retired Chairman, president and CEO of Edison International Theodore “Ted” F. Craver, Jr. with the 2016 Western Los Angeles County Council, Boy Scouts of America Americanism Award.According to WLACC-BSA president Mark D. Carlson, the award “is conferred on individuals who personify the traditions of our country and the Boy Scouts of America.” Other notable recipients include: General Jimmy Doolittle, Gerald R. Ford and Bob Hope.The event itself was an incredible evening put together for a fantastic, inspiring leader and proudly sponsored in part by our very own parent company, Berkshire Hathaway Energy.When asked about one of the secrets to his success, Craver told Carlson he incorporates the 12 points of the Scout Law into the culture of the organizations that he has had the opportunity to lead. Here are those 12 points:A Scout is ... Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean and Reverent.As I participated in the event to honor Craver, and listened to how the Boy Scouts of America fosters, develops and embodies leadership, I couldn’t help but recall a speech I’d watched the day before, given by the Dallas Cowboys’ Tony Romo to squelch swirling quarterback controversy among the Cowboys organization, exacerbated by a media splashing the story of a sidelined Romo across every major sports publication in the country. To provide context, as Tony Romo recovers from a back injury that has kept him off the field since August’s preseason, Dak Prescott assumed—and will continue to assume-the role of quarterback for the Cowboys. In a 733-word speech lasting a little more than 4 minutes, Romo explained his frustration and fears about watching another player excel as Cowboys’ quarterback but also articulated reverence, bravery, loyalty, trustworthiness, obedience and every other point of the Scout Law.“You see football is a meritocracy,” Romo said. “You aren’t handed anything. You earn everything every single day, over and over again.” He went on to say that whatever you do earn, you earn for everyone. “Ultimately, it’s about the team,” explained Romo. “... There are special moments that come from a shared commitment to play a role, while doing it together. That’s what you will remember. Not your stats or your prestige but the relationships and the achievement that you created through a group. It’s hard to do, but there’s a great joy in that.”So, what’s the message? Let’s return back to the Americanism Award that Craver received. In the description of the award it is stated: ”This award recognizes the recipient’s accomplishments in business, philanthropy or politics, and outstanding contributions to scouting and the quality of life within our community.“ Nowhere in that description is the achievement of the individual—how much money he or she earned, how many deals he or she was able to close—it’s an award honoring an exceptional leader, just like Ted Craver, (and in many ways, like Tony Romo proved himself to be with his speech), who is exceptional not because of his or her own greatness but because of the greatness the leader instills in others.

November 21, 2016

#91 Thoughts on Leadership: Stronger Together to Make America Great

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me in Northern California, working from my home office, and on Tuesday afternoon in Los Altos at the Montclaire Elementary School, exercising my right as an American citizen to vote in the 2016 election.For those reading my words now, holding your breath, don’t worry. This isn’t a political post … per se. I know far better than to talk politics or espouse one person’s opinion as more sound than the next. But my weekly messages are all about leaders and I’d be remiss not to mention that one has just been elected to lead the United States of America as our 45th president.It was a stunning electoral season, filled with passion, perseverance and purpose shown by both sides of the aisle. And now, it’s over. The time for divisiveness is through. We must once again be not red or blue states but a red-white-and-blue nation built on unalienable rights—life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness. We must determine to be stronger together in order to sustain the democratic principles that make us so great.In his First Inaugural Address, delivered in 1801, President Thomas Jefferson addressed a crowd of Federalists and Republicans recently divided by a historically close election. “Let us, then, fellow-citizens, unite with one heart and one mind,” said the Founding Father. “Let us restore … that harmony and affection without which liberty and even life itself are but dreary things.”If you watched Donald Trump’s victory speech or Hillary Clinton’s concession, you’ll recall similar thoughts echoed by both: Let us move forward and let us do it as one nation.“I still believe in America and I always will,” Secretary Clinton declared Wednesday morning in New York City. “Our constitutional democracy enshrines the peaceful transfer of power. And we don't just respect that, we cherish it.” She later added, “I believe we are stronger together and we will go forward together.”The night before, as Trump accepted his election to the U.S. presidency, he stood behind his podium and declared something quite similar: “Now it’s time for America to bind the wounds of division … I say it is time for us to come together as one united people.”So, what’s the message? The idea of forward movement is nothing new to those in the real estate industry—we help people move each and every day—or really to anyone in a business set on positive growth. With this familiar idea in mind, we must all step together, move forward as we’ve done so many times before, as we’ll do so many times after this, not as isolated parties in a nail-biter of an election but as one people, united, who believe in democracy, liberty and justice for all.

November 10, 2016

#90 Thursday Thoughts on Leadership: Connecting and Networking for Success

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in Orlando for the National Association of REALTORS® Conference & Expo, a yearly event that brings together real estate professionals from across the country … and the globe. Our HSF Affiliates brands will be proudly represented on the Expo floor—come say hello to our team at Booth No. 1565—as thousands of attendees connect, learn and ultimately build relationships that will help grow their businesses.In this post, though, I want to focus on the value of connection because I firmly believe it lays the groundwork for all we do, is a major determinant of future success and in many ways, can define who we are. Without real connection we have next to nothing; no authenticity, no substance, no trust and no foundation upon which to build lasting relationships that will propel us forward.The question often comes up: How do you best connect at large events like the NAR Conference & Expo, when the crowd can sometimes be overwhelming and the opportunities so vast? Here’s my answer (or my five answers), about how to foster meaningful connections at your next meeting—whether it’s at the upcoming NAR convention, an office networking event or holiday party:

  1. Be friendly, maintain eye contact and project a positive self-image. When you exhibit respect and confidence, everything else falls into place. You must create a positive first impression!
  2. Always smile! Smiling is free and helps you form an instant connection. While smiling sends a clear message about your positive state of mind, not smiling can be interpreted negatively as grumpiness, aloofness or anger.
  3. Remember the power of a good handshake. Someone is likely to make a judgment in the first five seconds of meeting you. What’s involved with that very short interaction? Usually, a handshake. No matter what designer suit you wear or how nice your watch is, if you have a bad handshake, your first impression will definitely take a hit. It may seem trivial but the handshake is a serious step to familiarity. Your personal space barrier is broken, if only for a moment, which requires trust on the part of both parties. Therefore, it is the first step to developing a relationship (good or bad based on the handshake, of course).
  4. Be interested instead of interesting. Dale Carnegie had it right—you must attract other when you are genuinely interested in them. Listen more, talk less. Ask questions and seek to understand. You’ll be amazed how everyone suddenly wants to be your friend.
  5. Be yourself. Talk real, act real, be real and you will find that others will do the same in return.
So, what’s the message? These ideas may seem like things you already know but that’s what makes them so easily forgotten. Famed English author Samuel Johnson once said, “People need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed.” Remember: Whether your next networking event is the NAR Conference & Expo, a business meeting or a holiday party, focus on the power of connection and its ability to add value to your business and your life.November 3, 2016

#89 Thoughts on Leadership: Think Tanks

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me in Las Vegas for the 2016 National Convention of the Asian Real Estate Association of America (AREAA). From Vegas, it was off to Minneapolis for the monthly board meeting with our HomeServices of America, Inc. team-it’s always great to spend time with Greg Abel, chairman, president and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Energy. Finally, I finished the week in Park City, Utah for a Mavericks meeting.What is Mavericks? It’s a small think-tank group of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices CEOs who meet every six months to exchange ideas and help members grow. Each meeting is hosted by a different company; this one was at the offices of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Utah Properties, led by Broker/Owner Steve Roney. Every Mavericks meeting proves even more productive than the last and at the end of our time together, I always walk away with actionable ideas to help our affiliates improve, grow and succeed.Here’s how a 2010 article by The Guardian defined think tanks: “Tanks ... provide a space where experts and leaders from different backgrounds and disciplines can develop, discuss and test values, ideas and strategies.” They’re important to business growth from a developmental standpoint and they’re the melting pot into which ideas are thrown, cooked, stirred and subsequently served to the group at large.For our meeting, we began with an update on the markets of each Mavericks attendee and how their companies and agents are performing against their market. Next, Steve Roney gave a phenomenal overview of our existing Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices companies. From there, we rode a bus to the high-end, boutique offices of Utah Properties that fill some of the busiest spots of Park City, and do so with incredible strength -- Utah Properties is crushing it locally as the market-share leader. After that, we went to see the main office of Utah Properties, just six miles away as the crow flies but our bus ride actually took 40 minutes because we had to go around the mountain terrain.While at the main office, we interviewed agents and managers in order to give a critique about what we felt was working and not working at Utah Properties. Vince Leisey, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Ambassador Real Estate in Omaha (and our last Mavericks host) as well as Mark Stark, CEO/owner of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Arizona Properties, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Nevada Properties and Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties, provided updates on what changes they’ve made based on the feedback they received from our group at both the Omaha and Las Vegas meetings, respectively. They also spoke about how these changes had a positive impact on their companies. Tomorrow, each person in the group will offer one solid business idea to the other Mavericks and then we’ll end the meeting after this discussion comes to a close.So, what’s the message? A great idea left unshared is like a tree that falls in a forest. Does it really count if no one can hear it land? The success of our Mavericks meetings proves that ideas collected, discussed and acted on in a group setting are at the heart of transformative innovation because they’re heard by all.

October 28, 2016

#88 Thoughts on Leadership: California Travels

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me in Palm Springs, CA for the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices CFO Conference and just yesterday, in Irvine at the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties’ administration center.While in Palm Springs, I had the opportunity to address our CFO community and meet with the leaders who guide Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices brokerages nationwide toward achieving even greater financial stability and profitability. Brian Peterson, CFO for HSF Affiliates, also spoke to the attendees and emphasized the importance of being a catalyst, or as he defined it, being a person who quickly causes change or action. However, while a CFO can cause change to happen fast, he or she is also the one responsible for long-term, lasting growth. That’s why, Brian explained, “The CFO role is becoming more strategic and influential.”After the CFO Conference I was off to Irvine where I presented to the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties team. I spoke about the 7 Principles of Success and a Mindset Routine for personal and professional growth to help agents get a jump start in the new year. (As I mentioned, agents should finish their business plan in October to ensure a running start as soon as Jan. 1 comes around.) After the presentations, I recorded a podcast with Sam Guillen, director of training for California Properties, where we talked about my real estate career and the lessons, discoveries, triumphs and challenges I’ve experienced after decades in the industry.So what’s the message? As December fast approaches, think about all the ways you’ll grow in 2017 through the principles you follow, experience you’ve garnered, decisions you make, strategies you employ and the positive mindset you maintain. Then, you’ll set yourself up for success in the new year … and beyond.

October 21, 2016

#87 Thoughts on Leadership: The 2016 NAGLREP Conference

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me in Ft. Lauderdale, FL for the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals Conference. This meeting is the premiere forum for the LGBT real estate market and highlights issues that affect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender homebuyers and sellers. As an example, at the 2016 conference, NAGLREP released the results of its latest Member Survey, which found 20% of LGBT real estate agents surveyed thought the historic Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court ruling positively affected their clients’ decision to buy or sell a home. (Read more results from the survey here.)Each year, industry leaders gather to celebrate accomplishments, discuss pressing topics and brainstorm ways to make a real difference for an influential, important and impactful area of the real estate industry. This year’s meeting was exactly that.Brad Inman, founder of Inman News delivered a keynote address about how people and technology are making the world a better place (and why we need to play along); Sean Becketti, chief economist at Freddie Mac talked about what’s in store for the housing market; Blair Myers star of “Like A Boss” TV show on the Oxygen Channel, spoke on the topic of using personal characteristics to grow your brand and business; Sherry Chris, president and CEO of Better Homes and Gardens, along with Todd Sears, founder of Out Leadership, discussed how companies and organizations working together can help evoke positive change within the real estate industry; Ann Green, president and CEO of CooperKatz & Company, Inc., explained the ways agents can benefit from today’s golden age of PR; David Siroty, VP of Communications for Coldwell Banker, talked about smart content strategies for growth; and Krisstina Wise, founder of GoodLife Realty, gave a keynote about how to find true wealth and long-term financial security in real estate. Additionally, I was honored to deliver a keynote speech on the seven principles for sustainable success. Thanks to Jeff Berger, founder, president and CEO of NAGLREP for asking me to speak.Over several days, attendees at the NAGLREP conference discussed, brainstormed, shared ideas and connected, all for the betterment of the LGBT community and ultimately, real estate at large. It was a significant step toward bringing more diversity into our industry and one in which I was proud to participate.So, what’s the message? Diversity is incredibly important. As George Takei once famously said, “We should indeed be calm in the face of difference, and live our lives in a state of inclusion and wonder at the diversity of humanity.” Just as we can’t settle for mediocrity if we’re truly set on progressive growth, we also cannot settle on monotony, on a workforce or industry marked by sameness. We’ve got to focus on fostering diversity because while our similarities undoubtedly unite us, it’s our differences that really bring about the most powerful kind of collaboration, creativity and change.

October 14, 2016


By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me in Pittsburgh to meet with the team at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices The Preferred Realty and owner/CEO Ron Croushore. Attendance at the meeting topped more than 450 agents, managers and staff, and I spent five hours—one with managers and four with the agents—talking time management, principles for success, operating a brokerage and more. What an incredible experience and what an energized group! As I stood on stage addressing the crowd, a thought came to mind: This, like all our Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices members, is more than a brokerage. It’s a family, a community of like-minded individuals who understand the importance of learning and growing together for the benefit of all.

And that thought stuck with me the entire day and night, following me as took in the breathtaking views of downtown Pittsburgh while dining at LeMont Restaurant and then as I returned to my hotel to write this post to you. It also became incredibly significant because it happened to coincide with HSF Affiliates breaking the news we’ve joined forces with World Class Coaches. World Class Coaches and its Moving Families Initiative, directed by former Los Angeles Rams All Pro football player Johnnie Johnson, tackles the challenges of moving families with a strong focus on serving, protecting and meeting the needs of relocating families with children ages 19 and younger.

As part of this program, agents from our HSF Affiliates brokerage networks will join more than 3,100 other real estate professionals already serving transitioning families coast to coast. Johnnie, recognizing that moving can be difficult for anyone but puts particular strain on children, launched this initiative to take a proactive approach on assuaging the physical and emotional strain kids face when changing neighborhoods or schools.

I actually found out about the program over breakfast several months ago with Johnnie. Just two friends, having breakfast on a Saturday morning, catching up and the whole thing turned into an incredible opportunity to share the great work he’s doing with our networks. Meetings ensued, I connected Johnnie with Mary Kelly, HSF Affiliates director of referral channel development, and Edward Maldonado, HSF Affiliates director of operations. With a lot of hard work—I like to say Mary quarterbacked the project—here we are today, kicking off this initiative to help moving families reach the end zone and help their children tackle the challenges associated with relocating to a brand-new place.

A new community to learn, new friends to make, new schools to navigate … all of this can deeply impact a child’s well-being and as real estate professionals, we have not only a unique positioning to help but also perhaps a duty to do so.

According to U.S. Census data, more than 10 million children 19 years and younger move throughout the U.S. That’s a massive number and a testament to the kind of large-scale impact we can make. To engage with this program, people simply access the new Moving Families Initiative Connectivity PlatformTM, www.movingfamiliesinitiative.com or call (866) 224-8895, prior to the execution of their home rental, sale or purchase agreement. Home Connections will then join them with a Preferred Real Estate Agent of the families’ choice.

So, what’s the message? Real estate is much more than a financial transaction. It’s a life change and we in real estate facilitate this monumental shift. We show our clients how a house can be a home and then watch as they live in it, transforming bricks and beams into a whole new existence for them … and their families. That’s why we support the Moving Families initiative plan. Because it ensures all family members’ needs are met through the move and beyond. It’s a holistic approach to relocation that is not only smart but it’s also the right thing to do.

October 7, 2016

#85 Thoughts on Leadership: Business Planning for 2017

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me first in San Diego, where I was invited by Sam Guillen and John Stenberg of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties to speak to the team. From there, I went to Irvine, CA and end my week in San Jose, CA, where Robert Cruz will be installed as president of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals® (NAHREP) Silicon Valley. This week I also took the opportunity to finish my business plan for 2017 and will have my entire year mapped out by Saturday, Oct. 1.

Some might ask, a business plan in October? Yes, you read that right. Because over the decades I’ve worked in real estate, I’ve learned most real estate agents—and most companies—have a cash flow problem during January and February. The perennial issue makes sense when you understand that real estate works on a 90 day cycle; what you do today will pay off three months from now and concurrently, what you don’t do today will cause suffering and headache three months down the road.

That’s why it’s important to complete your 2017 business planning a full 90 days before the start of the New Year so that when Jan. 1 rolls around, you’ll be ready to hit the ground running.

But a warning: Don’t just review a draft of your business plan, tell yourself you’ll complete it in October and carry on with your day. Commit to business planning and then get it done!

Another important thing to consider as October draws near is how you’ll connect with current and future clients during all the parties, gatherings and events that take place between Halloween and New Year’s Eve. These celebrations present ideal opportunities to prospect for new clients, strengthen existing relationships and grow your business in the year ahead.

Remember to make a good first impression. A firm handshake, a positive attitude, a strong self-image and a smile go a long way when connecting with people. You can also connect with people through correspondence. You’d be amazed at how far a simple holiday card can take you!

For my own business strategy, I used to send out a holiday card in a very specific way and it had a huge impact on my business. Here’s what I did: I used a photo of my family and on the back, handwrote a personal holiday greeting to the recipient. I also handwrote every single envelope (no electronic labels here), used an actual holiday stamp and mailed the card on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving so it arrived in mailboxes on Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the entire year. Why Black Friday? Because just as the rush of Christmas shopping begins (and people are in a consumer’s frame of mind) your card is the first thing they’ll see and you can bet they’ll hang that picture on their refrigerator or put it on their kitchen table and leave it there all throughout the holiday season.

So, what’s the message? Plan for 2017 right now. Complete your business plan, start hand writing your holiday cards and know that with real estate on a 90-day cycle, for us in this industry, the New Year had already begun.

September 30, 2016


By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in Rancho Mirage, CA for our 2016 Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Summit Conference. The theme for this year’s event is “storytelling and connecting,” and the two ideas couldn’t have been more central to every activity, networking opportunity, presentation and gathering that together encompassed our Summit meeting

Summit kicked off with a keynote from Laura Schwartz, former director of events for the White House, who left the crowd riveted with tales from her experience working among presidents and the world’s most important dignitaries. She also shared the very real ways some of the most exciting business ventures came to be. (Did you know Oprah’s decision to syndicate her talk show was the result advice from film critic, Roger Ebert, who doled out his wisdom during a first date at a burger joint? Or that DreamWorks was really the brainchild of one momentous conversation between Steven Spielberg, David Geffen and David Katzenberg at a White House state dinner?)

On Day 2, best-selling author Carmine Gallo fascinated our attendees with a speech about communicating our ideas through stories because storytelling is the single-most effective way to stir emotions and drive change. “Ideas that catch on are wrapped in story,” he said. “You need to reach people’s hearts before you can reach their heads.” How? Not just by telling stories but by telling them passionately. “Passion is contagious,” Gallo explained, then quoted Steve Jobs, who famously said, “People with passion can change the world for the better.”

Listening to Laura and Carmine speak—the first about connecting, the second about storytelling—I couldn’t help but realize that our two themes are closely related in a very specific, very actionable way: We connect with others through the stories they tell and we use our stories to connect. It’s a symbiotic relationship that is, when done right, powerful beyond anything we can imagine.

Even our luxury panel during our Day 2 General Session connected with the crowd through stories; for instance, Andrew Manning, agent with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties in Sherman Oaks, shared the incredible story of showing a home to Will and Jada Smith while BJ Adams, broker/owner at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Aspen Snowmass Properties told a narrative about foxes that had settled into a prospective client’s listing, which the sellers asked if she could care for while they were out of town.

So, what’s the message? Connecting is storytelling and the two concepts allow us to create a network that’s lasting and true. Because if you think about it, the bonds holding a relationship together must always first and foremost be based on a strong connection, which happens through the stories we listen to and the stories we share. As Carmine told the Summit crowd, the power in connecting through storytelling is nothing short of “magic.”

September 22, 2016

#83 Thoughts on Leadership: RISMedia’s CEO Exchange

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me in New York for RISMedia’s 2016 CEO Exchange conference and I have to say, it was probably the best RISMedia CEO Exchange I’ve attended in recent years with engaging panel discussions, brilliant moderators and exciting keynote speeches.

The event kicked off with Alex Perriello, president and CEO of Realogy Franchise Group, who delivered a keynote on “The State of the Real Estate Union” and had many fantastic insights to share.

After Alex’s presentation, John Featherston, president and CEO of RISMedia, moderated a panel discussion about the real estate market from both a macro and micro perspective. Panelists-including Candace Adams, president and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties and Westchester Properties as well as Maryann Vitale Alles, president & CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Select Properties-shared what they’re experiencing in key regions around the country, what the challenges and opportunities are in today’s real estate market and then forecasted where the market is going in the next six months.

Next, Jon Coile, president and CEO of Champion Realty, Inc. moderated a panel discussion on “The Evolution of the Real Estate Model: What’s Working and Why.” And I have to say, Jon is someone who can not only expertly moderate a panel better than almost anyone but also someone who should probably host the Tonight Show. He’s just that quick and funny. Vince Leisey, president of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Ambassador Real Estate, joined Jon onstage and spoke about how vital it is to control and master your company culture in order to find success and growth.

Day 2 kicked off with a keynote presentation I was honored to give to the crowd on “Success Strategies for Today, Smart Planning for Tomorrow” followed by a panel discussion on “Achieving Agent Buy-in: Communication Strategies for Uniting Your Sales Force”. During the panel, moderator Joseph Rand, general counsel and managing partner at Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate-Rand Realty masterfully navigated a conversation about communication and motivational strategies to recruit and retain agents.

Also noteworthy during that day was a panel moderated by Pat Riley, president and CEO of Allen Tate companies on “ The Future of Homeownership: What Will Sway the Odds?” Panelists spoke about how to translate American’s desire to own a home into the reality of homeownership.

After New York, I was off to Sea Girt, NJ to attend the launch of our latest Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices network member, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Signature Properties, and speak to their team. Signature Properties, (previous RE/MAX Signature Properties) is a long-standing brokerage leader in the Sea Girt market, serving residential communities across Monmouth and Ocean Counties. Founder and CEO Bret Violette cited the combination of Signature Properties and Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices as “unstoppable” in his local market and emphasized that with this new affiliation, his brokerage was “marvelously positioned for the future with the intent to grow.” (Read more about the firm here.).

So, what’s the message? From a fantastic RISMedia CEO Exchange to an excellent new member launch, I learned so much this week from so many people. And really, learning is a key cornerstone to effective leadership. As John F. Kennedy once said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”

September 16, 2016

#82 Thoughts on Leadership: Lose Graciously

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me Irvine, CA at our HSF Affiliates headquarters then in Phoenix to meet with Mark Stark, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Arizona Properties, Nevada Properties and California Properties. While in Phoenix, I had the opportunity to play a round of golf with Mark as well as Dennis Alaburda—agent with Arizona Properties—at Troon Country Club in Scottsdale, a world-class course that has hosted elite events like the United States Mid-Amateur Championship, Arizona Open, Ping Pro Scratch and the Merrill Lynch Shoot Out.

Being out on the greens, cacti surrounding me, the rocky Sonoran Desert hillside just beyond, I thought about one of my all-time favorite golfers, Jack Nicklaus, an athlete I admire as much for his off-the-course philosophy about life and leadership as I do for his superb skills displayed while playing the sport.

Objectively speaking, Nicklaus is widely considered the greatest golfer who ever lived. His game combined an incredible mental dexterity with a physical ability almost unmatched by any player on the professional tour. When it came to major championships, Nicklaus absolutely dominated; he won a total of 18 career major championships over a span of 25 years including, six Masters, four U.S. Opens, three British Opens and five PGA Championships. And in a stunning feat achieved only by five golfers in history, Nicklaus completed three full cycles of the modern Grand Slam.

Yet, despite his overwhelming success, it’s actually not his winning record that contributes to the worldwide esteem of this golfing great, known affectionately as “The Golden Bear.” He is consistently admired, in fact, because of the way he graciously handled defeat; Nicklaus finished second 19 times in major tournaments and each and every time always gave credit to the winner.

“Golf is a better game played downhill,” he once famously said.

So, what’s the message? Don’t let people define you by your behavior when you win. To be a good-natured winner will never set you apart from anyone. That’s easy. Let people measure you by how well you handle loss because it is in those tougher moments that your character is truly tested and humility is less easily found. Always remember: Taking the high road when you come in second place still means you‘re moving forward, on a path toward bigger and better things to come. As Nicklaus said, “Through the years of experience I have found that air offers less resistance than dirt.”

September 9, 2016

#81 Thursday Thoughts on Leadership: What’s Your Story?

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me in Charleston, West Virginia to meet with the team at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Great Expectations Realty and had the opportunity to sit next to U.S. Senator Joe Manchin at dinner Thursday night then had a brief meeting at the office of U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito the next day. After West Virginia it was off to Minneapolis for meetings with the HomeServices of America, Inc. board and then Northern California where I had lunch with Carmine Gallo, best-selling author of one of my favorite books, The Storyteller’s Secret. Carmine is also a keynote speaker at this month’s upcoming Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Summit Conference in Palm Springs, Sept. 18-20 and I can’t wait for him to share his wisdom with the crowd!

Our theme for 2016 Summit is “connecting” and this fits squarely with Carmine’s philosophy: The best way to connect, he says, is through the stories we tell. Think about it. What is it we really remember from meetings, trips or big events? Is it the gate number for our flight? Is it the very date a particular conference call took place? No. Those are details and they’re easily forgotten. What we remember are the stories we take away from these experiences and the stories others have shared with us. Here are three traits of inspiring storytellers, as defined by Carmine in his book:

  1. Inspired storytellers are inspired themselves. Have you ever heard someone give a speech but he or she isn’t passionate about the topic at hand? Stories are how we must communicate but passion and inspiration is what makes a story come alive. Don’t just tell inspiring stories, be inspired by them yourself.
  2. Inspiring storytellers aren’t always born; they’re made. Just because you haven’t perfected the art of storytelling today doesn’t mean you won’t get there tomorrow. As with anything, it takes immense amounts of preparation and practice to execute on a story and make that story come alive for your audience.
  3. Inspiring storytellers are eager to tell their backstory because it’s a gift that shaped their life, career and business. Not all stories start with happy beginnings. Think about some of the most successful businesspeople in the world—Oprah, Tony Robbins, Larry Ellison—and how they often credit the hardships they endured with helping them find lasting success. We aren’t best defined by our big wins; we’re best defined by how we overcame obstacles to make those big wins happen.

So what’s the message? If you’re looking to connect with someone, do it through stories. Because stories are, after all, the currency of effective communication, allowing us to “buy in” to the idea of connecting with someone else by relating to—and retaining—the information they’ve conveyed.

September 2, 2016

#80 Thoughts on Leadership: Collaboration and Success

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me in Lewes, DE to meet with the fantastic team at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Gallo Realty and spend time talking to Gallo Realty’s leadership team, including Broker/Owner Andrew Ratner. We sailed along the historic Lewes Canal, we dined outdoors at an incredible, 3-acre property owned by Chris Holt, COO of Gallo Realty’s The Lee Ann Wilkinson Group. We also discussed principles for success, time management and how to create an unstoppable mindset to win in business … and in life. All in all, it was time well spent and I couldn’t be prouder of the great work the Gallo Realty team is accomplishing in their marketplace.

While in Delaware, I had the opportunity to tour the famous Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, a Delaware mainstay founded by Sam Calagione in 1995. Dogfish Head is as notorious for its brews at it is for its business philosophy: the brewery is one of the fastest growing independent breweries in the nation. (Just from 2003 to 2006 alone it grew a whopping 400%!) Given such massive success, I knew that when I got the chance to meet Sam, he’d have much to say about business, leadership and growth.

Gino Blefari with Sam Calagione, founder of Dogfish Head Brewery.

With Sam Calagione, founder of Dogfish Head Brewery.

And my instincts were right. Talking to Sam—even briefly—it’s immediately evident why his company has enjoyed such rapid and impressive success: He’s a staunch advocate of collaboration over competition, a concept masterfully outlined in his book, Off-Centered Leadership: The Dogfish Head Guide to Motivation, Collaboration and Smart Growth. Sam understands that working together toward a common goal will always be the best way to ensure success for everyone.

In fact, his brewery has collaborated with businesses of all sizes and in all locations—from local, small establishments to mega-popular bands like the Grateful Dead. Together, Dogfish Head worked with the Grateful Dead on a pale ale called American Beauty, which gets its sweet and toasty heritage from Grateful Dead fans who suggested adding granola as a primary ingredient to the recipe. That’s not surprising since granola was a primary staple of Deadheads.

So, what’s the message? Without collaboration, there is no innovation. Without collaboration, there is no forward movement. Because no matter what business you’re in—beers or helping clients buy and sell homes—it’s the spirit of collaboration that will ultimately get a deal done, expand your business and help you achieve the kind of large-scale, sustainable growth that simply cannot be accomplished alone.

August 26, 2016

tom ferry

[Pictured above: Tom Tognoli, CEO and president of Intero Real Estate Services, a Berkshire Hathaway affiliate, John Thompson, COO of Intero Real Estate Services and Dan Forsman, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Georgia Properties, who was recently named as 2016 Most Admired CEO by the Atlanta Business Journal … for the third year in a row!]

#79 Thoughts on Leadership: Success in Las Vegas

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me in Las Vegas to attend Tom Ferry’s Success Summit. During the event, Tom covered topics ranging from marketing and team-building to time management and productivity. (In between Tom’s talks Stefan Swanepoel, best-selling author and CEO of Swanepoel T3 Group, took the stage to discuss digital innovation in today’s tech-centric world.) Also front and center during Tom’s presentations: The concept of being fearless. Over and over, Tom spoke about how the absence of fear will allow you to up your real estate game and take your business to the next level … and beyond.

Fear is truly the wicked stepchild of leadership because it inhibits growth. Think about all you could accomplish if you weren’t afraid to try. Think about how much more you could get done if you weren’t fearful about failure. THAT idea was central to every one of Tom’s presentations at this year’s Success Summit and it’s one I challenge all of you to ponder today.

Stefan Swanepoel speaks at Tom Ferry's 2016 Success Summit in Las Vegas.

Stefan Swanepoel speaks at Tom Ferry’s 2016 Success Summit in Las Vegas.

So, what’s the message? To quote Patrick Swayze in the movie Point Break, “Fear causes hesitation and hesitation will cause your worst fears to come true.” Remember that which you focus on naturally expands and if you constantly focus on your fear, that’s all you’ll have. Nothing will come before or after your fears and they’ll dictate your entire existence, inform the decisions you make and cause your business to stagnate or worse, decline. But focus on being fearless and the opposite will happen: you’ll make wise, brave decisions, you’ll live courageously and you’ll find incredible growth and success. As Tom Ferry said, “There are a lot of people right now who are interested in being fearless, in moving beyond the status quo, beyond their normal income and doing something extraordinary.”

August 19, 2016

Eddie DeBartolo Jr. (center) shares a laugh with Joe Montana (left) and Carmen Policy.

#78 Thoughts on Leadership:Eddie DeBartolo Jr. Built an Empire in San Francisco by Placing People First

By Gino Blefari

My travels last weekend brought me to San Diego for Buffini & Company’s MasterMind Summit, a powerful event focusing on personal growth and inspiration. I have to admit I was already inspired for this event after watching Eddie DeBartolo Jr.’s induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday.

While most Hall of Fame members are players and coaches, DeBartolo was inducted as a franchise owner, which says a lot. His leadership and management beliefs helped shape the way I operate in business and serve as an ideal game plan for motivation, human decency and organizational success.

DeBartolo purchased my beloved – though hapless – San Francisco 49ers in 1977, a team widely regarded as one of the worst franchises in all of professional sports. Like many of us, he wasn’t an instant success: San Francisco went 2-14 the next two years.

Yet piece by piece, DeBartolo built a franchise for the ages. In 1979, a turbulent year in San Francisco, he hired Bill Walsh as head coach and the team drafted future Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana. General Manager John McVey joined the organization in 1980 and Tony Razzano – who pushed to draft Montana – was promoted to director of scouting in 1981. Carmen Policy became vice president and counsel for the team two years later, completing a leadership team that forged a dynasty. Policy was named president and CEO of the 49ers in 1991.

San Francisco improved to 6-10 in 1980 then embarked on a run as impressive as any in NFL history. The 49ers averaged nearly 13 wins per season from 1981 to ’98 (including playoff games), won 13 division championships and five Lombardi trophies. They revolutionized the game with Walsh’s West Coast Offense of short, rhythm passing and became a magnet for top players looking for a better fit. It seemed everyone wanted to play for Eddie DeBartolo.

DeBartolo was equally impactful off the field, revolutionizing the owner-player relationship from a rigid, top-down mindset to more of a partnership. At the core of San Francisco’s turnaround was DeBartolo’s deep-rooted focus on family. The team members truly cared for one another, and looked out for one another.

“We did not see players as simply players,” DeBartolo said in his acceptance speech in Canton, Ohio. “We saw them as men. We saw them as sons, husbands, fathers, brothers, with families and responsibilities ... We weren’t just a family on Sundays. We were a family every single day.”

That sense of family extended beyond the players. In his speech, DeBartolo fondly mentioned 24 players and coaches by name and heralded many others who never stepped foot on the field. Listening to him state how everyone in the organization from hot dog vendors, to bus drivers, to the laundry crew, schedules and community reps all contributed greatly to the 49ers five Super Bowl championships, it became unmistakably apparent where DeBartolo’s heart is and always has been: caring about others.

When it came to praise for his former team members, his generosity was boundless. He praised both Montana and Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young, who were once locked in heated competition for the 49er quarterback position, in such a way that each had to feel distinctly honored. Of course, he praised my good friend Dwight Clark, whose famous touchdown catch launched the 49ers to their first Super Bowl, which warmed my heart.

While “The Catch” remains one of the NFL’s greatest plays, DeBartolo said it was the second-greatest play of Clark’s career. On October 17, 1989, DeBartolo’s daughters Lisa and Tiffanie were driving to meet Montana and Clark at Candlestick Park for the San Francisco-Oakland World Series baseball game. Their route included the Bay Bridge, which on that day, partially collapsed in one of the largest earthquakes to hit the Bay Area. Phones were dead; DeBartolo couldn’t reach his daughters. It was Clark who got a call through. “We have the girls with us. They are safe,” Clark told DeBartolo at the time.

“To me, that was the greatest catch of Dwight Clark’s career,” DeBartolo continued in his speech.

DeBartolo’s account of how he hired Coach Walsh, also a Hall of Fame member, provided another glimpse into what makes Eddie DeBartolo Jr. the man he is. DeBartolo explained that when he interviewed Walsh for the coaching job they talked about family and ideas and how important the team was to the city of San Francisco. He said he knew in 15 minutes Walsh would be the coach, and that set in motion the dynasty.

Once again, DeBartolo is all about people and family.

This speech had a profound impact on me. Obviously unknown to DeBartolo, the 49ers winning methods – beyond providing me with tremendous joy – became the basis for how I run real estate companies and for what we should stand.

Eddie DeBartolo Jr. reinforced my belief that if you cannot run a business as a family, where every person matters, then you shouldn't start a business. He mentioned how he would make sure that those in his organization would be remembered on their birthdays and graduations, and provided special attention when someone was in need. This philosophy showed me how to create corporate culture.

Inspired by Coach Walsh and the innovation and energy he brought to the business, we created our own West Coast Offense for real estate – the Four Disciplines of Execution – which gives our organization focus, accountability, cadence and specific measurements for success.

So what’s the message? It’s DeBartolo’s message and leadership blueprint. Treat people – clients, team members, colleagues – with respect and learn about them. Care about them. Inspire them. The greatest success in sports, real estate or anything else springs from the collaboration of a strong, confident and empowered team that isn’t really a team at all, but a family.

August 12, 2016


By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me in San Francisco for Inman Connect (to browse the social coverage from the event, check #ICSF). Inman Connect always proves an amazing opportunity to create and build relationships while brainstorming breakthrough ways to grow a business and this year—with an incredible lineup of speakers and motivated attendees—was no exception. Featured speakers included: Amanda Kahlow, CEO and founder of 6sense; John Thornton, partner lead at Google; Pam Costa, coach at Down To There; Amy Bohutinsky, COO at Zillow Group; Robert Thomson, chief executive at News Corp; Kelly Stonelake, creative at Facebook and Instagram; and social media maestro Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO of VaynerMedia, who closed the conference with a riveting talk about the importance of social marketing to genuinely connect with clients.

In fact, if there was an over-arching theme to the event, it would be the careful interplay between fostering authentic client relationships while embracing the ever-changing technology that so significantly affects how our real estate industry operates. Brad Inman, founder and owner of Inman News, addressed this issue right from the Inman Connect stage. When speaking about adopting new technology into a business he said, “Don’t worry about it. Technology is adopting you. Go hone your human skills.”

To further highlight this theme of technology intermingling with personal relationships, let me share an experience I had at this year’s Inman Connect …


Gino Blefari, CEO of HSF Affiliates, connected with Chris Heller, CEO of Keller Williams and Sherry Chris, CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate at Inman Connect 2016 in San Francisco.

On Tuesday night, I attended a private cocktail hour hosted by Constance Freedman, founder and managing partner at Moderne Ventures, along with Keith Krach, chairman and CEO of DocuSign, who graciously held this gathering at his own home. A VIP reception immediately followed, hosted by Sherry Chris, president and CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, Brad and Keith. The event was organized around a great cause—the celebration of a new fundraising initiative called New Story that brings the dream of homeownership to hundreds of people in Ahuachapán, El Salvador. New Story was founded by Brett Hagler, Mike Arrieta, Alexandria Lafci and Matthew Marshall. I was able to catch up with Brett and Mike Tuesday night and was so impressed not only by their business acumen but also by their palpable passion for bringing the dream of homeownership to those who might not otherwise have a chance to own a home. The gathering was also a great chance to connect with industry colleagues and find inspiration from some of real estate’s most innovative and forward-thinking leaders, like my friend and former colleague Susan Yannaccone, recently named president and CEO of ERA Real Estate. (Congratulations, Sue!)

Now, here’s where the concept of connection and technology came into play: While attending the event, I was able to spend some time talking with Sherry and Chris Heller, CEO of Keller Williams. The three of us even posed for a photo, which Sherry tweeted out the following morning. And with that single tweet, Twitter followers were able to see Sherry, Chris and I connecting at the Tuesday evening event. But what’s even better, the connection was now a chance for digital interaction; users could comment on the photo, retweet it and like it, thus transforming a moment in time shared between three people into a piece of digital content that could be engaged with and absorbed by thousands.

So what’s the message? Technology, as Gary emphasized in his keynote, must be fervently embraced. Your clients are looking for homes using technology and harnessing the power of social media to find the right property for them, so it only makes sense that real estate professionals should be dominating the digital space, ready and willing to help. But we must always remember that while social media and technology cannot be ignored, real estate will never solely be about the technology people use; it’ll always be about the people who use the technology

August 05, 2016

#76 Thoughts on Leadership: Innovation in Minneapolis

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me in Minneapolis for a meeting with BBDO, our advertising agency, along with Stephen Phillips, president of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, Kerry Donovan, VP of marketing and Wendy Durand, director of marketing. We were all gathered in the Twin Cities to discuss the progress we’ve made as a brand since Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices launched in September 2013, where we’re at right now in terms of brand awareness and positioning, and finally, where exactly our brand is going next year and well into the future.

Kerry asked me to kick things off, which I did by telling the team: “Look at every television commercial we’ve ever produced. Look at every television commercial that every real estate brand out there today has produced recently and in the past. Study those television ads then let’s create something totally, completely and entirely different.”

Needless to say, innovation became a key theme of the meeting and we spoke at length about ways we can differentiate ourselves from everyone else, which meant refining and retelling our brand story in a way that wouldn’t just attract consumers nationwide but it would also compel them to action and want them to engage with our brand. As Gary Vaynerchuk, leading social media expert and venture capitalist once said, “Your story isn’t powerful enough if all it does is lead the horse to water; it has to inspire the horse to drink, too.”

Another theme of our meeting was strategic planning. It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of planning ahead, and understanding that progress made does not necessarily determine progress to come. As the saying goes, once you think you know it all, your slide to mediocrity has already begun. And this couldn’t be more true than in the world of branding and marketing. You must listen to your audience but with the most discerning of ears. As Steve Jobs famously said, “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

Marketing is really a means to an end. The means? Television advertising, online advertising, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, viral videos ... all of the ways you promote your businesses today. The end? Informing consumers and showing them your value. With each piece of marketing you produce and every advertisement you create, you must always be thinking about why your customer needs this product or service in the first place and then, how you’re adding value at every turn. Once you have those answers, you can craft your message accordingly and it’ll be powerful enough to really hit home.

For our team in Minneapolis, this all translated into going back to our vision and mission statement and clearly communicating our brand attributes. During the meeting, Stephen noted that our core brand attribute, communicated time and time again through our television ads, is trust. “If you combine the expertise of our network members with our brand’s approachability, you get trust,” he said. “And to me, trust is the foundation of everything about our brand and that’s what we must convey to our audience.”

So, what’s the message? Be different from the rest, listen to your customers with a discerning ear and strengthen their trust in you. Those are the things we must focus in the coming year. So while I can’t reveal too much about what we’re planning for 2017 - though you should know we’ll have another fantastic television ad as well as an incredible springtime promotion-I can tell you that whatever we produce will be informed by our desire to convey these messages of differentiation, innovation and trust to the consumers who rely on our network members every single day.

July 29, 2016

#75 Thursday Thoughts on Leadership: Halfway Through 2016

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in Northern California for meetings and video filming (you’ll be seeing what I filmed soon!) And in between my busy schedule it struck me that we are smack in the middle of 2016. Can you believe it? Half the year is already over!

Besides being a testament to how very fast time flies—especially when you’re having fun in your job—this halfway mark is also an important reminder to reflect on the goals you set for this year and to check in and see how far you’ve gotten toward accomplishing them. Are you on track? Behind? Ahead? If you gave yourself measurable ways to gauge your success, you’ll be able to easily see how close you’ve come to hitting those goals. Now, if you haven’t achieved your goals, here are two reasons why that might be:

  1. You don’t believe you can achieve them.
  2. You filled them out January 1 or just before the new year, put them away in your drawer and haven’t looked at your goals since.

For the first point, I’d say you must believe and have faith in yourself. Not faith as a religious faith but faith as in the belief that you alone contain all the necessary knowledge and know-how to accomplish your goals. You must also understand that faith comes irrespective of others’ thoughts or opinions. As Carter Chambers (played by Morgan Freeman) said in the movie, The Bucket List, “You measure yourself by the people who measure themselves by you.”

As for the second point, I’d recommend you review your goals every single day and see what a difference that makes toward you actually accomplishing them. Because the truth is that what you focus on expands and by reviewing your goals, you’re focusing on them.

It’s important to remember that there are two parts of our mind and each play a particular role when it comes to goal-setting and goal achievement.

  1. The conscious mind. This is what you use to define, articulate and set goals.
  2. The non-conscious mind. It’s this part of your mind that follows through with all the dozens, hundreds or millions of actions necessary to achieve these goals. Another good thing to remember about the non-conscious mind is that its servile; it sets no goals of its own, it only tries to carry out the orders that you’re giving it.

Your Reticular Activating System (RAS) plays a huge part in goals. As explained in The Answer: Grow Any Business, Achieve Financial Freedom and Live an Extraordinary Life by John Assaraf and Murray Smith, the RAS is the scientific term for a network of nerve pathways at the base of your brain that connects the spinal cord, cerebellum and cerebrum and acts as a filter for all the sensory input your brain draws from your external world. Reticulum is Latin for “little net” and simply means a netlike structure. Anything that you see, hear, smell, feel or taste passes through this fine network, which then relays the signal or message on to the appropriate part of your brain for processing.

Here’s how Assaraf and Smith explain the RAS as it relates to goals: Let’s say you’ve been earning about $100,000 a year for a while, so that is what seems normal to you. This translates into a belief: “I am worth $100,000/year; that’s my normal income level.” Because your non-conscious mind is holding tightly to that picture of you earning $100,000/year, even if a million dollar idea comes along, your RAS will filter it right out so that you never even become aware of it.

So what’s the message? You must first believe you can achieve your goals and then you must then make reviewing your goals part of your daily routine so your RAS can go to work. If you do these two simple things, the second half of the year will see you not only focusing on your goals but also achieving them.

July 22, 2016

#74 Thoughts on Leadership: In the Spirit of Aloha

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in Maui, HI, splitting time between the Fairmont Kea Lani and the Montage Kapalua Bay. I’m on the island for my annual family vacation and coming off the heels of five days spent in Costa Rica for the Berkshire Elite Circle Conference, I can say I’m definitely in a tropical mindset. (In fact, just this morning I did a meditation class, a breathing class and a yoga class so I’m feeling very zen as I write this today.)

Even though I’m technically taking a respite from work, a leader’s job is without end and if not directly working with my teams, I’m still here hard at work on myself. I’ve already reviewed my 2017 goals, marking places where I want to make revisions and edits to exactly what I’ll accomplish next year. I’ve also re-listened to books like The Storyteller’s Secret and Talk Like Ted, which I have as hardcopies so I can highlight and underline sections that particularly resonate with me. This way, I can get a jump on planning the messages I want to share with real estate agents and leaders across the country when my vacation ends. (As a side note, I’m listening to a new book as well, Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable by Tim Grover, legendary basketball trainer who once worked with icons like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and others.)

Additionally, I’ve been watching and re-watching my favorite TED talks with my family, which has been a fun and enlightening activity for all. A few hours before dinner, after a long day of swimming, surfing and soaking in the sun, we meet on the patio for our happy hour and it’s then that we listen to one TED talk, which never fails to spur lively conversation between us. And in the Hawaiian spirit of aloha (joyfully sharing life) I’d like to share with you three of my favorite TED talks we’ve seen:

Do Schools Kill Creativity? by Sir Ken Robinson

How to Make Stress Your Friend by Kelly McGonigal

Why We Do What We Do by Tony Robbins

So, what’s the message? No, you shouldn’t spend the your entire next vacation rewriting goals or annotating books. However, you should remember that even if you’re technically off the clock, quiet trips away from ringing cell phones and full inboxes can often provide the ideal time to reflect, rejuvenate and reinvigorate so you’re even more prepared to lead when you return.

August 08, 2016

#73 Thoughts on Leadership: A Time to Celebrate

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me in Costa Rica at the Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo, a sprawling, tropical retreat overlooking the Gulf of Papagayo that borders the sandy beaches and pristine waters of the Culebra Bay. I was visiting Costa Rica for the Berkshire Elite Circle Conference, which brought together broker/owners from the top 50 companies in the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices network for a celebration of their achievements.


Gino Blefari onstage at the 2016 Berkshire Elite Circle Conference in Costa Rica.

The event kicked off with a welcome reception and equestrian show, where a horse danced to traditional Costa Rican music. The next night was the awards ceremony to honor each top-performing brokerage. Finally, the conference wrapped with a closing-night extravaganza set to the tune of a percussion-based band, playing as fluorescent paint fell in brilliant drops of color on their drums. The brilliance, I must say, matched the palpable, bright energy of our broker/owners, who not only came with optimistic mindsets to share ideas but were also happy to take a few moments to reap the rewards of their success.

In fact, celebration is the theme of today’s post because too often leaders forget just how important it can be. Your team's accomplishments deserve recognition and achievements deserve to be commended. As Oprah Winfrey once famously said, “The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.”

Take, for instance, the upcoming July Fourth holiday, a celebration of the independence of our country. Why is it that even centuries after that glorious day—July 4, 1776—when the colonies claimed their autonomy from England by officially adopting the Declaration of Independence, (it had been through 86 revisions since its initial draft), we still celebrate the momentous occasion each time July 4 comes around? And why is it that exactly 240 years after the first public reading of the Declaration took place in Philadelphia’s Independence Square—complete with ringing bells and the music of live bands then followed the year after by bonfires and fireworks—we still send sparklers into the sky and celebrate what it means to live in an America that’s free?

Because to celebrate is to remember the good in life; it’s a chance to refocus our energies from whatever challenges we face on the road to professional success and recall how very far we’ve come.

So, what’s the message? It’s one I was reminded of in Costa Rica and will take to heart this year on Independence Day: I define celebration as the reinforcement of motivation that carries us through to the next achievement. That’s why celebration needs to be encouraged by leaders so that when the hard times come around, when the struggles and failures of business present themselves, the leader’s team can recall the feeling of celebration and be motivated to work even harder to celebrate success once again.

July 01, 2016

#72 Thoughts on Leadership: A Franchise Sales Philosophy

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me in Denver, CO for the HSF Affiliates Franchise Sales Team Meeting. As it happens, Denver International Airport (DEN) has been named the most on-time airport in the U.S., and the city is known as the most educated in America, boasting the highest percentage of college graduates. What better location could we choose for a conference bringing together our punctual and skilled sales team members?

To kick off each day of our two-day meeting, I delivered presentations related to best practices in brokerage operations that set the stage for ongoing discussions about how to approach brokers interested in joining our network. You might be surprised that I didn’t speak about sales pitches or the most effective ways to market our offered systems and tools; I could’ve talked about all that for hours but it wouldn’t quite align with our HSF Affiliates franchise sales philosophy.

Our objective at HSF Affiliates is to bring together our sales team under a common playbook, with rules that are more about value-adds and coaching than they are the typical “here’s what we’ll do for you” or “here’s our stuff.” In other words, our goal is to fully understand the brokerage’s business model and the markets in which our prospective brokers operate so that when we do have initial sales conversations, we can talk less cold, hard numbers and more about relevant, hyper-local business approaches. These well-researched, personalized strategies for growth are not only tailored to today’s highly specific brokerage environment but also to the brokers’ needs in order to be brutally effective when helping them accomplish their goals.

So, what’s the message? To quote Zig Ziglar, “Stop selling. Start helping.” Because in the end, call it what you want—sales, marketing, pitching—at its core, this practice must be about guiding a brokerage toward greater success than they’d find on their own or anywhere else. And that’s the commitment our sales team has made at HSF Affiliates. Plus, when you’re talking franchise sales in a locale known as the “Mile High City,” you can’t really help but want to stretch your highest and farthest to help others succeed.

June 24, 2016

#71 Thoughts on Leadership: Gateway to the West

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in St. Louis to meet with two fantastic brokerages. First, I visited Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Select Properties and members of the company’s leadership team, including Maryann Vitale Alles, president and CEO and Angie Ignatowski, broker/owner/relocation director. Then it was off to Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Alliance Real Estate to speak with agents and managers, including CEO/Owner Andrea Lawrence, President/Co-Owner Kevin Goffstein and Executive Vice President/Co-Owner Bob Bax. My meeting with Alliance Real Estate was part of a two-day event, the Faster Higher Stronger Conference, which kicked off Wednesday night at the St. Louis Cardinal’s Busch Stadium, for an evening of baseball to benefit the Sunshine Kids. What an incredible experience and it all began with Steven Conner of the Sunshine Kids, who was joined on the field by his family as he threw out the first pitch of the game! Great times for a great cause!

Gino Blefari with Steven Conner of the Sunshine Kids at St Louis Cardinals, Busch Stadium just before Steven threw out the first pitch of the game.

Gino Blefari with Steven Conner of the Sunshine Kids at St Louis Cardinals, Busch Stadium just before Steven threw out the first pitch of the game.

As I sat up on the left side of the third deck taking in the Cardinals game, I couldn’t help as I gazed over the left centerfield fence but notice the huge Gateway Arch curving in all its famed glory just behind the stadium. I was sitting next to Kevin Goffstein, so I turned to him and asked about the history of the Arch. As I discovered, Kevin is particularly well versed in the background of the architectural wonder, so in the spirit of knowledge-sharing, I’d like to list five facts about the iconic St. Louis monument that you might not have known:

  1. It’s a symbol of our nation’s westward expansion. The Gateway Arch, part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, was built as a tribute to the story of our country’s westward expansion, a “Gateway to the West,” and a symbol of Thomas Jefferson’s vision to carry the “great experiment of liberty” to the edge of our continent. From 1947 to 1948, a nationwide competition selected Finnish American architect Eero Saarinen’s stainless steel design to symbolize the accomplishments of early pioneers. On June 23, 1959 construction began and the Gateway Arch opened Oct. 28, 1965.
  1. It’s enormous in both height and weight. The Arch is 630 feet tall, or spans about as high as a 63-story building and weighs 43,220 pounds.
  1. The view from the top is incredible. Though I’ve yet to climb to the apex of the Arch, it’s said that on a clear day you can see up to thirty miles in all directions from the viewing area at the top. (I have to add, I’m not the biggest fan of heights and just the thought of being all the way up there made me dizzy even as I sat in the stadium miles away!)
  1. Its shape has a specific name. The arch is a weighted catenary curve, which is the shape of an inverted free-hanging chain held at both ends.
  1. The arch was designed to sway. The Gateway Arch can sway as much as 18 inches and was built to withstand an earthquake. Under most conditions, though, the arch doesn’t sway; it takes 50-mph winds to make the arch budge 1.5 inches from its stationary position.

So, what’s the message? Whatever you do and wherever you are, remember there’s much to be learned about the world around you. If I hadn’t asked, I never would have known the illustrious and fascinating history of the Gateway Arch. So, in the words of Thomas Jefferson for whom the Arch was constructed, “He who knows best, knows how little he knows.”

[All Gateway Arch photos courtesy of the State Historical Society of Missouri]

June 17, 2016

#70 Thoughts on Leadership: Butterflies, Bees and Sunshine

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in Southern California for staff meetings and our third-annual HSF Affiliates Sunshine Kids FunRun, taking place tomorrow in Irvine. I’m looking forward to attending the event and raising money for an incredible organization that provides positive activities and emotional support for young cancer patients. There is no greater feeling than giving back to those who deserve it most and doing something not for your own benefit but for the sole benefit of others.

And speaking of giving back, this past week we lost one of the all-time greatest givers, a fighter, a hero, a leader, a legend … Muhammad Ali. In 1964 when Ali emerged victorious in his fight against famed American boxer Sonny Liston, Ali raised his arms high into the air, smiled as big as anyone could possibly smile and announced, “I shook up the world!”

He was right and would continue to be right for decades to come, shaking up the world with his bold fearlessness, his vivacious spirit and his persevering drive. Of course we know Ali “floated like a butterfly, stung like a bee” but he wasn’t just the physical embodiment of grace and pain … he was a man true to his word, who backed up everything he said with the grit and victory to keep on saying more. Isn’t that the greatest quality a leader can possess, the ability to not only say something but then follow through every time with a knockout punch? Here are five quotes from the eloquent, fondly remembered fighter to illuminate, invigorate and inspire you today:

“It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.”As Og Mandino once said,“I remember the pain, so harsh I could hardly walk, and recall my surprise when I removed my shoe and found only a grain of sand.”

‘”Don’t count the days. Make the days count.”Be grateful for every moment and take every moment for what it is: an opportunity to win whatever battle you’re fighting then move on to the next one and repeat the same thing over again.

“Service to others is the rent you pay for you room here on earth.”When altruism meets selfishness in the ring, altruism wins every round, every time.

“Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”When people create boundaries around what they believe you can achieve, never accept these boundaries as absolute, they’re there, as Ali says, to be knocked down.

“I run on the road, long before I dance under the lights. I hated every minute of training, but I said, “Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.”The pain of discipline weighs ounces, the pain of regret weighs tons. Also, there are two things we know to be true about success: 1. You have to pay full price and 2. you have to pay in advance.

So, what’s the message? Let’s take this one from a man who will always be remembered not just for challenging the status quo, dancing around the ring with conventionality or taking a few jabs at what others said could not done but for taking it all down … fighting.

June 10, 2016

#69 Thoughts on Leadership: Step by Step

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me in New York City and the overwhelming theme of my trip was “steps.” Let me explain …

I was in town for the NAHREP Hispanic Wealth Project Symposium, which brings together stakeholders and national leaders to create measurable financial and wealth-building initiatives to benefit the economy. As with all NAHREP events, this one was fantastic, and served to refocus my energies around the strategies put forth in the NAHREP 10.

The NAHREP 10, if you haven’t had a chance to review it yet, is made up of 10 guiding steps—there’s the first instance of our theme—to direct the Hispanic community toward greater success and fiscal prosperity. (You can read my perspective on Principle 2 here.) While at the Symposium, I was also fortunate to connect with NAHREP CEO and co-founder Gary Acosta, former president and Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Georgia Properties VP Teresa Palacios Smith, and Leo Pareja, 2016 NAHREP president elect, who moderated my panel discussion, “Increasing the Success of Hispanic-Owned Small Businesses.” Leo’s expertise in navigating our conversation was not only a testament to the depth of his real estate knowledge but also a reaffirmation that with him leading the organization, NAHREP will always remain one step ahead of an ever-changing industry.

From the Wealth Symposium it was off to New Jersey, where I visited with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New Jersey Properties’ management team, led by Broker/Owner Bill Keleher. The meeting proved as productive as the company was engaging, and it is clear New Jersey Properties is making the right steps toward growth.

Speaking of steps yet again, let’s talk about my own … specifically 10,000 of them that I try to take every day. It’s a goal I set (and most often hit), which forces me to get outside and explore. Fortunately, when you’re in NYC, walking is a way of life, and so after dinner on Wednesday, I decided to stroll through Central Park instead of immediately getting in an Uber to my hotel. For those who have never visited, the 843-acre Central park is a grassy, tree-lined contradiction right in the middle of Manhattan. It’s vast, unexpected and transformative in its ability to immediately make you feel as if you’ve left the city altogether and are now somewhere entirely new.

On my walk, I happened to pass the famous Bethesda Terrace and took the several steps down to the Bethesda Fountain, a bronze structure that has long been hailed a landmark of Central Park. Notably, the fountain was designed in 1868 by Emma Stebbins, who was the first woman to receive a public commission for a major work of art in New York City. Her artistry represents a tremendous step forward for women’s rights in America and gave me a sense of Manhattan’s rich history that remained as I returned to my hotel in the heart of Battery Park.

It just so happened that my hotel room not only had a telescope but also provided a direct view of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, where decades ago my grandparents landed from Italy, ready for the opportunities presented by this fresh frontier. As I looked at Ellis Island, I thought about how arriving there represented hope and stability for my grandparents and felt inspired to be standing so close to the place where they took their first steps on American soil and into their new lives.

So, what’s the message? This week, it’s a simple but powerful one … Always remember that it’s incredible what you can learn, discover and experience when you take things one step at a time.

June 3, 2016

#68 Thursday Thoughts on Leadership: Collaborating for Success

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels first found me in Minneapolis for a HomeServices of America, Inc. board meeting. As soon as the meeting ended, I flew into Omaha, NE to get together with the “Mavericks” that evening. The Mavericks is a small think-tank group of CEOs that meets every six months to exchange ideas and help each other grow. Each meeting is hosted by a different company; this one took place at the brand-new office of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Ambassador Real Estate and was organized by Broker/Owner Vince Leisey and his incredibly helpful staff.


With Vince Leisey, broker/owner of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Ambassador Real Estate, at our Mavericks meeting this week.

During our Mavericks meetings, we hold a peer review on the host company, which translates into open-minded discussions about the culture, systems and overall operation (including profitability) of the brokerage. In true Maverick fashion, we debate progressive ways to solve problems and propose innovative, forward-thinking solutions.

I especially like that our group is called “Mavericks” because the word itself gets to the heart of what we do: A maverick, by definition, is “an unorthodox or independent-minded person,” or, to use a familiar business term, someone who regularly “thinks outside the box,” and that’s exactly our goal. We seek to disrupt the status quo, to dislodge the ordinary and to dismantle all the things that objectively just aren’t working in order to build a business both lasting and sustainable.

Sometimes, as leaders, I think we are so focused on how we can individually influence success that we forget to lean on the knowledge and expertise of others. You’ve heard it before but I’ll reiterate it again: Don’t focus on improving your weaknesses. Focus on strengthening your strengths. Whatever you don’t know, find someone who does. Whatever you can’t accomplish, find someone who will. Collaboration is the stuff of real success. But don’t just take my word for it. As Andrew Carnegie once said, “Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.”

So, what’s the message? Work smart, work hard and work together because success can’t—and shouldn’t—happen alone.

May 27, 2016

#67 Thursday Thoughts on Leadership: Coincidence in Minneapolis

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in Minneapolis, MN for the HomeServices of America, Inc. leadership meeting. The meeting proved educational, invigorating and inspiring, with presentations from top leaders in our organization. Monday and Tuesday, prior to this conference, HomeServices of America, Inc. held a Leadership Development Conference, which brought together 20 rising-star leaders from across the country. I had the opportunity to talk to this group about creating a winning culture, which I firmly believe is critical for the sustained, long-term prosperity of any company. As I always say, I love what I do largely because of who I get to do it with, and that rang true as I met with my HomeServices of America, Inc. CEO family in Minneapolis.

Though culture is no doubt an integral part of success, there’s a less talked-about factor that can also help guide us in the accomplishment of goals: coincidence. I’ve written on the topic before (read how it played out at the 2015 Berkshire Hathaway Shareholders meeting here) and want to address it again today, though with one disclaimer: Coincidence only works in your favor when you take the time to connect. You must put yourself out there, ask questions, seek new experiences and only then will coincidence appear.


Dan Forsman, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Georgia Properties, delivered a compelling talk on recruiting at the HomeServices of America, Inc. leadership conference in Minneapolis.

As an example, while in Minneapolis I ran into Maureen Sammon, president and CEO of HomeServices Mortgage, who also presented to the 20 leaders at the Leadership Development Conference. (I actually saw her on Tuesday 5:30 a.m. at the gym, although that part is no coincidence; I know she works out early in the morning like me.)

Maureen had just delivered a commencement address to the 2016 graduates of University of Iowa’s Tippie College of Business and so, on the heels of my own commencement speech to the graduating class at Woodbury University we exchanged stories about our experiences and even shared the speeches themselves. By pure coincidence—this was the first I saw of her address and the first she saw of mine—both our commencement speeches included seven secrets for success. Not six, not five but seven. At two different schools in two different states and during two different graduation ceremonies, our addresses both featured the exact same number of takeaways, collected from decades of business experience.

Even more exciting still, Maureen has graciously agreed to share her success secrets with us, so that we can be similarly inspired by her message and the lessons on life and leadership these seven pieces of sage advice contain. Here’s a summary of what she delivered to the 2016 graduates of the University of Iowa Tippie College of Business:

  1. Do your own job first but then look for ways to help the business beyond the boundaries of your job. Identify and solve problems. Make sure when you hand off your part of the work, someone else is taking it and moving it forward. Don’t let go until you know they’ve got it.
  2. Listen and learn from everyone around you, at every level. Welcome all new ideas, questions and solutions. Find people with a lot of experience and ask them how and why they’re doing what they’re doing. Ask a lot of questions and really listen to the responses.
  3. Treat everyone with respect, regardless of their behavior. You should always act according to your principles. You will meet people who have different principles but remain true to yourself. Help your peers, mentor your subordinates.
  4. Be present in your community. Represent your company and yourself in your community. Build a network. Support your business publicly.
  5. Be generous with your time to things you are passionate about. Your free time will be valuable, so make sure when you donate it, you’re passionate about the cause and you’ll benefit as much as the organization.
  6. Try not to say no to new things, especially if they scare you. Don’t say no to things you’re not sure you’re ready for—someone is asking, so he or she thinks you’re ready. That said, do your homework and make sure it’s the right opportunity at the right time.
  7. Twist, turn and bend, you never know where you’ll find opportunity, challenges and rewards. You can change your mind. What you’re passionate about now may be different in five years and that’s OK. Don’t stay in a place or with people that put boundaries around what you can do.

So, what’s the message? Coincidence can be a powerful thing—allowing you to rediscover a friendship or uncover valuable advice to help you grow but it only happens when you take the time to connect. In other words, to quote from Maureen’s graduation speech: “Wherever your journey takes you, reach up, reach down and reach out.”

May 23, 2016

#66 Thoughts on Leadership: Lessons from the Leadership Summit

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me in Costa Mesa, CA for Tom Ferry’s Leadership Summit. The event brought together hundreds of broker/owners, managers and top teams from across the nation and served as a forum to both hear and share ideas. Tom Ferry kicked the meeting off in his typical, high-energy fashion and as I later told him, being among so many industry peers felt like being among family. (Although I must admit, I always feel like family when I’m with Tom. After all, his wife, Kathy, is 100% Italian, so he really is family. I’ll also never forget the first time I spoke to Tom … he was 19 years old and cold called me to attend his Superstar Retreat. We’ve been friends ever since!)After Tom’s introduction, it was off to the keynote races. I was up first, and gave a presentation on “Leading for Profits Fearlessly.”My speech was followed by Laura Morton, bestselling author, who spoke about “Fearless Storytelling.” Morton is the embodiment of her message, having penned more than 50 books, including more than 20 New York Times bestsellers and titles written with such business visionaries as RE/MAX CEO, Chairman and co-Founder Dave Liniger and Tom Ferry himself.In addition to Morton, the all-star lineup of speakers included Peter Hernandez, president and founder of Teles Properties, who spoke about “Fearless Recruiting” and how important it is to recruit to your company’s culture.Steve Carney, CEO and founder of Keeping Current Matters, spoke as well, and highlighted the three attributes leaders must instill in their employees: Inform, instruct and inspire. Inform by creating clarity from confusion, instruct by creating confidence from fear and inspire by creating action from inaction. What a powerful presentation!Additionally, CEO of Zillow Spencer Rascoff, addressed the crowd on the topic of “Fearless Online Lead Generation.” He began his talk with this question: “Who among real estate agents can be fearless in today’s environment?” As Rascoff defined it, fearlessness in real estate means not just observing the latest trends in our industry but also embracing them.Finally, Tom Ferry took to the stage again to wrap up the Leadership Summit.So, what’s the message? In just one day of speeches and presentations from industry leaders, I was able to glean so much information about what it means to be an effective leader. The conference was high impact and exciting, and a testament to just how important it is to attend these types of events, so you that you can learn by listening to the advice, knowledge and ideas of others. After that it’s all about action. You must commit to incorporating the ideas you learn into practice. For me, I’m committed to fulfilling my own leadership mission: Helping others achieve their goals faster than they would in my absence. What will you learn and commit to today?

May 13, 2016

#65 Thoughts on Leadership: 7 Secrets to Success

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in Palm Springs, CA for the 2016 Real Living Connection conference. The meeting has been an incredible opportunity to connect with the Real Living brokers who work hard in markets across America and I must give kudos to Bob McAdams, president of Real Living, for putting together such a powerful and inspiring event. I’ve been having a great time participating in the conference activities, and even biked almost two miles in the 95-degree sweltering desert heat yesterday to compete in an Amazing Race-style team-building event. (Hey, it’s all about commitment. Remember, if you’re INTERESTED in being successful, you do what’s convenient but if you’re committed to being successful, you’ll do whatever it takes.)

After Palm Springs, I drive to Los Angeles where on Saturday I’ll be giving the commencement speech to the graduates of Woodbury University, class of 2016. Putting together this speech has been a real exercise in motivation and history, taking me back to when I was a young, 20-something trying to make my way in the world after I graduated San Jose State University and was appointed General Manager of the Cherry Chase Golf and Swim Club in Sunnyvale, CA. What would I tell my younger self about what it takes to succeed? What lessons have I learned or what knowledge have I acquired that my younger self needs to understand? THOSE are the things the Woodbury University graduates must hear and now, days before I deliver the speech, I want to give you an exclusive preview of what I’ll tell them, my “7 Secrets to Success” …

  1. Play full out. Do whatever it takes. Put your whole self in the job and know that you have to want it more than anything or anyone. I began my real estate career with just a dollar bill in my pocket. I figured if I had that one dollar bill and took a potential client for coffee—at the time a coffee only cost 75 cents—then I could at least afford to pay for my own cup.
  2. Have a good morning routine. You have to get something positive in your head at the start of every day at the best way to do that is with a regular routine. My routine involves taking my M.E.D.S. … Meditation, Exercise, Diet and Sleep. This routine helps me with my keystone habits that create small wins. I know helps prepare me to have a great day.
  3. Be humble. Have fun. Smile. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Remember what I said in my last Thursday Thoughts: Smugness comes before arrogance and arrogance is the pre-cursor to disaster.
  4. Build a great team. I always say I love what I do largely because I love who I work with. Great teams are important blends of personalities and talents, where everyone is working for the betterment of all. Think about the game of basketball. For a lot of people, it’s about making the basket. But really, the assist is just as critical, maybe more. I believe the person who passes the ball to the player scoring is the most important player. Ultimately, no matter who scores, what really matters is that your team wins the game.
  5. Provide extraordinary customer service. Do you know what the single, toughest thing for the competition to duplicate is? Not just ‘service’ but extraordinary quality service, convenience and value. And do you know why? Because extraordinary quality service, convenience and value requites the most effort. And you know as well as I do that most companies and most people are not willing to put forth the extra effort. Do you know why? Because it’s hard. But it’s the hard that makes you great. It’s the willingness to do the hard that makes you great. It’s the willingness to do the hard that separates you from the competition.
  6. Read. Make a commitment to read for one hour each day. I did this in my first three years in real estate and became widely known as an expert. Reading allows you to see old things in new ways by viewing them through the lens of another thinker with experience and knowledge that varies greatly from your own. This is how you’ll innovate and this is how you’ll achieve.
  7. Always work to continuous improve yourself. One thing I learned since leaving school is: You perform how you see yourself and that is precisely why you have to work harder on yourself than you do on your job. You are a constant work in progress. Never stop growing, never stop learning and never hide your talents. Remember, when you are through changing you are through. If you’re silent, you’ll be forgotten. If you don’t believe in yourself that will make it unanimous. If you do not advance, you will fall back. If you walk away from any challenge today, your self-esteem will be forever scarred and if you cease to grow even a little, you will become smaller. Reject the stationary position because it is always the beginning of the end.

So what’s the message? Well, here’s the one I’ll be telling Woodbury Graduates on Saturday: Some people think when they graduate college or grad school that their education is over and it’s time to get serious and focus on a career. Well, that just isn’t true. A degree is great, wonderful, an incredible achievement but it’s just the beginning. For though these graduates may no longer be official students at Woodbury University, they remain now and forever students in the school of life.

May 6, 2016


By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me in Westlake Village, CA for the fourth annual T3 Summit—T3 because Technology, Trends and Thoughts all take center stage at the event. The Summit is hosted by the Swanepoel T3 Group, one of the most prominent information and management-consulting firms in the residential real estate industry led by real estate visionary, Stefan Swanepoel. This was my first time attending T3 Summit and I have to say it was simply terrific. I left the conference feeling not only inspired by the speakers and presentations but also enlightened to go back to work with a fresh perspective and outlook on what it means to lead.

The event began with an opening keynote speech from Rick Miller, former president of AT&T Global Services and current Chief at Being Chief LLC whose new book, Be Chief, will be published December 2016.t3-summitFrom the outset, I immediately connected with Miller’s message about creating a road map and executing on a specific vision, especially because his version of success goes beyond the analytical and addresses the mentality necessary for goal-setting and achievement. Miller stressed the importance of meditation and how the right mindset can help accomplish any goal. Sometimes leaders shy away from the less data-driven aspects of success but I applauded Miller’s philosophy that leadership is all at once a physical, emotional and mental game. Have every piece in place and you won’t be able to stop yourself from winning.

Next up on the agenda was Paul Charron, former Chairman and CEO of Liz Claiborne Inc. and former Chairman of Campbell Soup Company. I had heard Charron speak in September at RISMedia’s CEO Exchange (you can read my thoughts about it here) and found my second time listening to even more illuminating. In fact, as he spoke, I furiously jotted down my favorite lines and by the time his keynote ended, had three pages filled with handwritten notes. Here are some of my key takeaways from Charron’s fascinating presentation:

  • Smugness comes before arrogance and arrogance is the precursor to disaster. As I like to say, once you think you know it all, the slide to mediocrity has already begun.
  • Businesses either change or die. A little harsh, yes, but it’s true that as a company, you’re either getting better or getting worse. This ever-changing state of business-being is why it’s so important for leaders to be the driving force to constantly moving things in a positive direction.
  • A leader needs to see the future through his/her own lens. We’re all a collection of the knowledge we’ve acquired and the experiences we’ve had throughout our lives. This means our perspective is unlike anyone else’s and when we examine what our future should look like, it must be through our own unique lens.
  • Numbers drive the train. Here Charron recommends keeping your CFO close because he/she is the member of your organization who will analyze a situation not from an emotional or ideological perspective but strictly by the numbers.
  • Look to other industries for lessons on success and failure. There are countless stories of big-time success and epic failure from companies far beyond your own industry. Study and learn from these narratives so you can replicate the good and avoid the bad. Failure is failure and success is success no matter what industry you’re in.
  • New eyes see old things in new ways. How can we make our eyes “new?” By bringing fresh ideas into the office each and every day. For me, this is exactly why I listen to so many books. Listening to the thoughts and ideas of others keeps my eyes new and allows me to bring a fresh perspective to an old problem or situation.

So what’s the message? Allow your mind to be clear and focused, do what you can to keep your perspective fresh and always stay true to your own vision of the future because you alone decide that tomorrow will be even better than today. I’ll keep all this in mind as I’m off to Omaha, where I’ll attend the 2016 Berkshire Hathaway Shareholders Meeting. The meeting is expected to draw almost 45,000 people taking in all things Berkshire Hathaway, including our very own booth at the exhibitor hall where shareholders can learn more about our brands. I expect this meeting to be an incredible opportunity to meet new faces, connect with old friends and share the lessons on leadership I’ve learned not only this week but also throughout my entire career.

Apr 29, 2016

#63 Thoughts on Leadership: Gathering Of Eagles

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in Dallas for REAL Trends 2016 Gathering of Eagles. The event brings together top leaders in real estate and allows us to collaborate and share ideas. It was also my chance to reconnect with my friend, All-Pro Dallas Cowboys/New York Giants defensive back Everson Walls, whom I had met several weeks ago during our Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices theme party at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX. I didn’t know it when we first connected in Texas—though I could tell he was a quality, great guy—but Everson actually gave a kidney to former Cowboys teammate Ron Springs and documents the moving story in his book, A Gift for Ron: Friendship and Sacrifice On and Off the Gridiron. What an incredible, selfless person! Everson is now a public speaker and can talk on any subject, so while I had him captive at breakfast, I asked him to tell me about the different cultures created by the coaches he played for: Eddie Robinson from Grambling State University, Tom Landry from the Dallas Cowboys, Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick when Everson played on the Super Bowl-winning New York Giants team. I shared what Everson told me with the REAL Trends group.

Then, while at the REAL Trends conference, I also had the pleasure of delivering a keynote presentation about corporate culture, which I define as the beliefs and behaviors that determine how employees and management interact and conduct business. Corporate culture is often implied, is not expressly defined, and it develops organically over time from the collective input of employees. Culture is incredibly important because it sets the tone for everything from how the team interacts with the kinds of hires made to how customers are treated.

Also on the agenda for today: Keynote speaker and award-winning thinker, author and broadcaster Geoff Colvin. Colvin wrote the groundbreaking bestseller, Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers From Everyone Else and recently released a follow-up to this hit business book called Humans are Overrated: What High Achievers Know That Brilliant Machines Never Will.

I found the topic of this second book extremely interesting, especially in light of my discussion at Gathering of Eagles about corporate culture. Colvin’s premise behind Talent is Overrated is basically that our competitive advantage as human beings in the workplace has evolved with the overwhelming prevalence of technology. Machines can now do the tasks for which humans were once responsible. What’s our competitive advantage in a world where technology rules? Those things computers, robots and machines can’t do, like sympathize, empathize, exhibit creativity, be humorous, build relationships, and connect through shared, human experience. In other words, all of the essential components that create a lasting culture also keep us ahead of the technology curve.

These same sentiments were echoed by guest speaker Dave Ridley, current Senior Advisor to the CEO of Southwest Airlines who held several senior executive positions during his 27-year career with the airline company. Ridley spoke about the importance of the intangible qualities that go into a solid brand, like excellence in customer service and leadership and the maintenance of a vibrant corporate culture.

So, what’s the message? As technology charges forward at an almost unfathomable pace and competitors enter our industry to threaten our success, we must foster those competitive advantages—our creativity, our connections, our culture—that make us who we are and we’ll always remain ahead of the game.

April 22nd, 2016

#62 Thoughts on Leadership: Two First-Time Trips and What I Learned

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me landing at Logan International Airport in Boston, where I took an Uber to Windham, NH for a meeting with the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Verani Realty team. While in Windham, I delivered a presentation to Verani Realty agents and at lunch, had a chance to lead a two-hour training session for the fantastic leadership team: CEO Margherita Verani, President Giovanni Verani and Debbie Gallant, president of sales.

It was my first-ever trip to New Hampshire, which is the birthplace of current head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, Chip Kelly. Kelly once said one of my favorite quotes about leadership: “Everybody has the same amount of time during the day,” he explained. “You can either spend your time or invest your time.”

Isn’t that the truth?

It also happens that this week finds me in another city for the first time, Grand Rapids, MI. I’m here to visit with the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Michigan Real Estate team, Michigan’s third-largest brokerage. When I arrived in Grand Rapids, I was immediately greeted by Katy Teklinski, CMO of Michigan Real Estate, and her husband Tom Teklinski, VP of Operations. I also had a chance to meet with Steve Fase, broker/owner and CEO of Michigan Real Estate.

By coincidence, when I walked into Michigan Real Estate’s Tech Summit, a learning event put on by the company at a popular venue called The B.O.B., I saw my friends Debbie and Lane Barnett, who lead Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Tomie Raines REALTORS®, which was recently acquired by Michigan Real Estate. I have to say, the entire Michigan Real Estate leadership team runs an impressive, productive brokerage operation and I’m proud to call them members of our Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices family.

But back to Grand Rapids ... When I first got here, I landed at Gerald R. Ford International Airport and it’s hard not to land at this airport without feeling the tremendous influence Ford had on the place. In 1974, Gerald Ford and his wife Betty returned to Grand Rapids for the first time after he became President of the United States and the trip came just after the airport had undergone construction with a new freight terminal and new hangars. Being there in person, I’ve never seen so many runways for that small size of a metropolitan location but Ford Airport is actually the largest commercial airport in the West Michigan region and the second largest airport in all of Michigan.

And like Kelly, Gerald R. Ford also said one of my favorite quotes about leadership: “Tell the truth, work hard and come to dinner on time.” Sounds just like something my mom has told me my entire life. Thanks, mom! Ninety percent of success is showing up on time and prepared.

So, what’s the message? To combine the wisdom of Kelly and Ford, two excellent examples of leaders in sports and government, invest your time wisely and always show up prepared.

Apr 15, 2016


By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me in Honolulu, HI (yes, you read that correctly, my business travels found me in Hawaii) for the 2016 Asian Real Estate Association of America (AREAA) Global + Luxury Summit. While at AREAA, I had the honor of taking part in a panel discussion during the closing session of the conference to talk about luxury real estate, high-end consumer preferences, luxury lifestyle and housing trends. Joining me in the discussion was Sherry Chris, president and CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate and Anne Miller, director of The RE/MAX Collection as well as Cedric Choi, CEO and director of Choi International, who was a superb moderator for the panel and participated in the discussion as well. It was a fantastic few days in the Aloha State and I have to thank the leaders of AREAA—2016 AREAA National Chairwoman Vicky Salvano; 2016 AREAA National Vice Chairwoman Angie Lee; Allen M. Okamoto, AREAA National Founding Chairman and AREAA Education Foundation, Emeritus; John Yen Wong, AREAA National Founding Chairman & Emeritus; Jim Park, AREAA National Chairman Emeritus and the rest of the fantastic AREAA team—for putting on such an engaging and dynamic event.

In Hawaii I also had the opportunity to meet with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Hawai’i Realty partners Tracy Bradley, Scott Bradley, Herb Conley and Earl Lee as well members of the Hawaii Realty team for a sail aboard Scott’s boat, the Via Mida, a historic, 61-foot wooden yacht that was recently restored to its original glory.


On the Via Mida with the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Hawai’i Realty team.

Before sailing on the Via Mida, I did a little bit of reading and discovered that the yacht was built in 1929 and traveled up and down the California coastline during WWII, protecting the shores from potential enemy invasions. When the war was over, it crossed the Pacific Ocean to Hawai’i where it is now docked at the Waikiki Yacht Club.

As I was walking up to board the yacht, I remarked to a member of the crew, “Wow, I think I’ve seen this boat before in Florida. I think JFK owned this boat once.” Later, while aboard, Scott told me that yes, there are rumors that say the Via Mida is actually the sister yacht to the Honey Fitz, JFK’s onetime cruiser still moored in Palm Beach, FL to this day. Back in October, I wrote about the Honey Fitz for a blog post about the importance of the past and the rich lessons on leadership our history contains. Scott was impressed that he now had visual confirmation his boat was connected to JFK’s historic Honey Fitz.

So, what’s the message? Connection is often a funny thing. To use a business term, sometimes the ROI of connection isn’t discovered until months or even years later, much like my discovery this week that the Via Mida is connected to the Honey Fitz. But the power of connection is incredible, whether it be the connection between two yachts docked thousands of miles apart or the connection of two business leaders who find common ground, connection can get deals done, allow new ventures to be made and foster lifelong friendships because it makes us realize we’re really all in the same boat.

GINO BLEFARI is CEO of HSF Affiliates LLC. You can follow Gino on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Apr 11, 2016

#60 Thoughts on Leadership: The Secret to Success

By Gino Blefari

Last week my travels found me first in Northern California on Friday, then Southern California at the beginning of this week and today, in Columbus, OH for a meeting with the fantastic Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Professional Realty team and Owner David Mussari, Broker Rob Arnold and Market President Michael Smith.While in Northern California, I had the opportunity to pick up my new car—a Tesla Model X SUV—and the experience inspired me to do a little digging on Tesla CEO, co-founder and notorious boundaries-pusher, Elon Musk. Today, Musk is in the news because he just unveiled the Tesla Model 3, his first foray into more affordable, mass-market automobiles that many say will revolutionize the auto industry, signaling a change from fuel-based cars to ones that run on electricity. And though production for these cars won’t begin until 2017, the Model 3 still represents a major step forward in the evolution of the electric automobile.But for Musk, the man whose main WIG (Wildly Important Goal) is actually to help humans live on other planets, it’s all part of the plan. My recent research on Musk revealed that those who’ve worked closely with him understand that his success comes from one simple secret .What is it that secret? Well, here’s what SpaceX co-founder Jim Cantrell once shared about Musk: “It doesn’t matter if it’s going up against the banking system (Paypal), going up against the entire aerospace industry (SpaceX), or going up against the U.S. auto industry (Tesla). He can’t imagine NOT succeeding, and that is a very critical trait that ultimately leads him to success.”So what’s the message? When it comes to success, passion and belief aren’t just half the battle … they ARE the battle, the fight and the only way to win the war. Some people think great leaders need optimism but in reality, optimism needs great leaders who don’t just see success as a probably outcome; they see it as an inevitable, undeniable truth.

April 01, 2016

#59 Thoughts on Leadership: The Storyteller’s Secret

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in Southern California for a meeting with the HomeServices of America, Inc. board and to work with our staff at HQ on products and services that will help our brokerage networks achieve even greater success this year. Just before arriving in California, I had finished The Storyteller’s Secret by best-selling author Carmine Gallo—who also wrote one of my favorite books, Talk Like Ted—about the power of stories to impress, illuminate and inspire.

“We’re all storytellers,” Gallo writes. “We don’t call ourselves storytellers but it’s what we do every day.” He goes on to explain that in this twenty-first century age of information—the “knowledge economy”—we are only as valuable as our ideas. In the spirit of idea-sharing, here are five of my favorite concepts Gallo presents in his book:

  1. “Inspired storytellers are inspired themselves.” All the great speakers of the world have one thing in common: passion. They don’t just get up on stage and talk; they infuse each and every word with energy, enthusiasm and enough passion to make you feel something, too.
  1. “Inspiring storytellers are not always born; they’re made.” The art of storytelling can evolve over time. Just because you may not be the best at telling your story now doesn’t mean you can’t achieve greatness with a little practice. As I say, you should never just “try,” you should only “do”!
  1. “Inspiring storytellers are eager to tell their backstory because it’s a gift that shaped their life, career and business.” Some of the most successful people in the world came from the humblest beginnings. Embrace the valleys of your life because they helped define the peaks.
  1. “Inspiring leaders ignite passion and loyalty by infusing their brand’s narrative with a higher mission.” At HSF Affiliates, we embrace the Sunshine Kids. But the Sunshine Kids aren’t just an organization we donate money to; they’re part of who we are as a brokerage network and our compassion for them helps shape the kind of professionals we aspire to be.
  1. “Inspiring speakers build a story structure for every important pitch, presentation, meeting or conversation and, in doing so, they introduce three components … villains, heroes and struggle.” When Steven Jobs presented the iPhone for the first time, he labeled competitor smartphones like the Blackberry, Motorola Q and Palm Trio “suspects” and “culprits,” Gallo describes. Jobs then asked a rapt audience how to “solve the problems” these competitor phones presented, creating a struggle between these nemeses and his own product. Then, he offered a resolution by way of the Apple iPhone and instantaneously, the most popular smartphone in history was born.

What’s the message? At a time when information seems more abundant than the oxygen we breathe, stories are important tools to package ideas in ways that can help us achieve our goals. Whether you’re helping a client sell a house or presenting to sell an idea, remember that we capture the mind with details but we capture the heart with our story. So think today about what your own story might be and then, go out there and share it with the world.

Mar 25, 2016

#58 Thursday Thoughts on Leadership: My Take on the NAHREP 10

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me in Washington, D.C. to attend the 2016 Housing Policy and Hispanic Lending Conference held by the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP). During the conference, I had the honor of speaking on a panel with Sherry Chris, president and CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, and Geoff Lewis, president of RE/MAX about best practices in real estate. During the panel, I discussed the “NAHREP 10,” principles put forth by the organization to allow its members to succeed. It just so happens that these guidelines are very close to my own philosophies and practices that I’ve used and embraced throughout my entire career:

  1. Have a mature understanding of wealth and prosperity because the one with the most toys usually loses.

My take: When I was a brand-new agent, I went to a seminar held by famed entrepreneur Jim Rohn. The class was called, “Seven Steps to Financial Independence,” and of all the brilliant things said during that session, one thing Jim said stuck out in my mind: “When your out-go exceeds your income, your upkeep becomes your downfall.”

  1. Be in the top 10% of your profession because being good is not good enough.

My take: The real estate business is not for the weak-willed or faint of heart. It’s for those of us who get sick to our stomach if we’re not in the top 10% of any competitive activity.

  1. Live below your means and be ready for the next recession because downturns are a regular part of our economic cycles.

My take: For 25 years, I not only lived below my means and readied myself for a recession but also encouraged my business partners and agents to do the same. That’s why when the economic crisis of 2008 hit and 40,000 of 80,000 real estate companies went out of business, we were able to keep our company afloat.

  1. Minimize debt because it is the biggest enemy.

My take: Build and maintain a strong financial model in the best of times and it’ll get you through the worst.

  1. Invest at least 20% of your income in real estate and stocks because they are the best and safest ways to build wealth.

My take: Here’s what worked for me when I was self-employed: I put 20% into my SEP IRA, 30% into an account to pay taxes with and 10% into a savings account. Of course I’m not offering you financial or investment advice; I leave that up to you and your own advisors. But for more information on investing strategies, I suggest you read two of my favorite financial books: The Richest Man in Babylon by George Samuel Clason and Money: Master the Game by Tony Robbins.

  1. Know your net worth including the value of your business because you can’t improve what you can’t measure.

My take: Early in my career I studied the biographies of highly successful people, including John D. Rockefeller. From my studies, I learned that Rockefeller knew to the penny what his net worth was at all times. I have a simple accounting program and every Friday I run a tax report where I see every single account, asset and liability I have so I know where I stand every week.

  1. Be politically savvy because public policy matters.

My take: This is exactly why I attended NAHREP. Public policy took the spotlight at this conference, through events like the White House Briefing, the keynote luncheon (with keynote speaker U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro,) as well as in panels and presentations with Jerry Ascencio, chairman of NAHREP and Teresa Palacios Smith, outgoing president of NAHREP and VP at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Georgia Properties.

  1. Be physically fit because wealth without health is meaningless.

My take: I couldn’t agree more. When you work out you release feel-good hormones like dopamine and increase levels of serotonin, a chemical responsible for happiness. Exercise also reduces your cortisol level, a hormone produced by your body under stress.

  1. Be generous with people who are less fortunate because philanthropy feeds your heart and spirit and gives more purpose to your work.

My take: I learned this early in my career from author Brian Tracy who reminded me of the universal law that you can’t get until you give. So don’t use the excuse “when I become more successful, I’ll start to give.” It’s just like a wood-burning stove; you can’t get the heat out unless you first put the wood in. Adopt a charity today. At Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, our official charity is the Sunshine Kids, a wonderful organization dedicated to providing positive activities for children with cancer.

  1. Be active in the lives of your family and children because familia is central to who we are.

My take: This one comes down to schedule and accountability. Contrary to what some may believe, accountability affords freedom. Every year before Dec. 15, I sit down and schedule out my entire year ahead. Do you know the first thing I put into my schedule? Time with family.

So, what’s the message? The “NAHREP 10” is more than just a list of best practices; it’s a playbook we should all follow to lead successful businesses and lives.

Mar 18, 2016

#57 Thursday Thoughts on Leadership: Win the Earnhardt Way

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in Indianapolis to meet with the talented team at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Indiana Realty. Spending time with the agents and managers at Indiana Realty, including co-founders Kevin Kirkpatrick and John Dick, as well as Chief Operating Officer Craig West, was an incredibly rewarding experience, and all attendees were in warm spirits despite the cold weather and impeding snow.

While driving to the Indiana Realty event, I had the opportunity to catch glimpses of the Indianapolis skyline from my car window and it’s difficult to be in that city without thinking of its most iconic event—the Indianapolis 500. The race is especially front and center this year, as the Indy 500 is set to hold its 100th running May 29.

The Indy 500, known as The Greatest Spectacle in Racing, first began in 1911, with an inaugural race won by a man named Ray Harroun. Today, more than a century later, the race has featured some of the best, brightest and boldest to ever drive 200 laps around the famed course: Mario Andretti, Helio Castroneves and A.J. Foyt. One of my personal favorite racers was the late Dale Earnhardt, whose son Dale Earnhardt, Jr. still drives in competitive racing today today. Though Earnhardt, Sr. raced at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway he never actually participated in the Indy 500.

However, despite not being in the actual race, of all the celebrated racers throughout history, I’ve always been particularly fascinated by Dale Earnhardt, Sr., not only because he was an award-winning driver, inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2010, but also because of his ever-present grit and determination to win.

“You win some, you lose some, you wreck some,” he famously said, perhaps hinting at his oft-mentioned aggression on the race track. Earnhardt was lovingly nicknamed “The Intimidator” because when he got behind the wheel, his competitors knew he was virtually fearless. It’s a trait we as leaders must always remember to embrace as we rev up our own engines, preparing for any kind of business race, even if don’t wind up being the first to cross the finish line. “Finishing races is important,” Earnhardt said, “but racing is more important.”

So, what’s the message? Fear being anything less than fearless. Put all things in perspective and don’t “let one bad moment spoil a bunch of good ones,” as Earnhardt once warned. Because winning is not a race but instead a mindset and if you believe you’ve got the strength and determination to succeed, then you’ve already won.

Feb 25, 2016


By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in the rainy Pacific Northwest for meetings with the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Northwest Real Estate team, including president/CEO Jason Waugh and Northwest Real Estate Chairman Mike Gain. I started off by speaking to our Seattle-based agents and managers then drove with Jason and the event's keynote speaker, Ashton Gustafson, 174 miles on I-5 southbound to Portland.


Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Northwest Real Estate President and CEO Jason Waugh and Ashton Gustafson, keynote speaker, attend a Northwest Real Estate event with HSF Affiliates CEO Gino Blefari.

I was thrilled to spend time with both Jason and Ashton-Jason for his consummate professionalism and leadership of the Northwest Real Estate brokerage and Ashton because I was intrigued by the speech he delivered in Seattle that spoke about the importance of connection. Essentially, Ashton's message was that no matter how much you tweet or post or snap in today's tech-centric world, real estate is still about genuine, personal connection. It doesn't matter, he might argue, if you achieve real connection through handwritten notes, in-person meetings or even a casual drop by to visit a past client; real estate is not an online business. Real estate is a people business.

Ashton's core thesis is something I agree with wholeheartedly. In my own estimation, if you asked real estate agents where their latest deals came from, a large majority would honestly say that seven out of 10 of their most recent transactions involved existing relationships and people they already knew. As I always say, "You must be that relationship!"

I had this idea of connection tossing around my mind as we arrived in Portland and I readied myself to address the Northwest Real Estate team. After getting to Portland, I quickly changed and went down to the lobby to wait for dinner when I ran into Ashton. We exchanged friendly greetings and after I asked him where he was off to, he told me he was going to a place called Powell's City of Books and would I like to join?

Books you say? Yep, I'm in.

Off we went to Powell's City of Books, which I had no idea was literally a literary metropolis, spanning an entire city block with an estimated 1.6 acres of bookshelves. (Fun fact: Once inside, I was actually given a fold-up map to navigate my way around. ) I learned during my visit to the City of Books that this legendary landmark of Portland is actually the world's largest used book store and the flagship shop of Powell's, the largest independent chain of bookstores on the planet. Not to mention, Huffington Post named this particular store in Portland the "one thing you must do" when you visit Oregon.

So, what's the message (and what does this all have to do with business)? Well, as I wandered rows after rows of books-taking photos of every title I want to add to my "must read" list-I couldn't help but think that this place, large as it may be, was really a microcosm of the real estate industry. How, among so many downloadable eBooks and online PDFs, could such a place like Powell's exist if not for the very fact that people still crave to connect? For the book industry, this translates into fingers on actual page. For real estate, it means boots on the ground, meeting clients and building relationships through the power of our personal presence. Because any business-whether it's the business of books or the business of homes-is never really about the other stuff that's shiny and new. It's about the people and that will never change.

Feb 19, 2016


[image courtesy of biography.com]

By Gino Blefari

“I am certain that after the dust of centuries has passed over our cities, we too will be remembered not for victories or defeats in battle or in politics, but for our contribution to the human spirit.” – President John F. Kennedy

This week my travels found me in Dallas to rehearse for the upcoming Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices 2016 Sales Convention. (By the way, read more about that event here.) Because our hotel was only a few blocks away, while on a break from rehearsal I had the chance to make a quick visit to Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas, a landmark of American history and the site where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated November 22, 1963.

As I walked the Dealey Plaza, it felt as if I had stepped back in time. The place stands pretty much as it did years ago—the same white colonnades adorn the main building, the same grassy knoll surges gently above the surrounding park. And in many ways, this preservation of the plaza fits squarely with the idea that though JFK may no longer be with us, his ideals and guiding principles remain.

The plaza has particular significance for me because I consider JFK as one of the finest examples of a leader anyone could hope to find. Honest, forthright, courageous … in every sense of the word, JFK embodied what it truly means to lead. So, being in the very spot where his life was tragically taken years ago—and just days before the Presidents Day holiday—I took the opportunity not just to lament the loss of a great man but also to reflect on the good he represented that no bullet can take away.

So what’s the message? Or better yet, what’s his message? JFK once said, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” With this in mind, my hope is that we take Presidents Day as an opportunity not to merely thank our past leaders with words but to reaffirm an unspoken promise to lead in a way that would make them proud.

Feb 15, 2016

#54 Thoughts on Leadership: What It Means to Win

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in Irvine, CA, where it seems as if the entire state is gearing up to host Super Bowl 50 on Sunday. And while my 49ers didn’t quite make it to the big game, it does take place right on my home turf, at Levi’s® Stadium in Santa Clara.

If you look at the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers roster, you’ll know Super Bowl 50 should be an interesting contest of the league’s two best defenses that pits prodigy quarterback Cam Newton of the Panthers against veteran quarterback, Peyton Manning of the Broncos. It’s also an intriguing matchup when you take into account the rumors circulating that this Super Bowl game might be Peyton’s last. In fact, browse any sports news website and you’ll be met with a hailstorm of headlines debating this very question. Will he or won’t he? Would a Broncos win on Sunday change everything?

Well, yes. Because if Peyton does decide to make this his final appearance on a professional football field, a Super Bowl win would cement his quarterback legacy in the history of the game. Win one Super Bowl and you’re good (OK, you’re really, really good) but win two Super Bowls and you ascend to football greatness. However, there’s an inherent flaw with this way of thinking, in diluting a years-long career into one single day battling to become a Super Bowl champion. Is it really fair to reduce decades of late-night game tape reviews and early morning practices, endless examples of stunning fourth-quarter wins and incredible, how-did-he-do-that passes into just a few hours of play?

Vince Lombardi, famed Green Bay Packers head coach during the 1960s, once perfectly summed up what it means to win. “Winning is not a sometime thing,” he explained. “It’s an all-time thing. You don’t win once in a while, you don’t do things right once in a while, you do them right all the time. Winning is a habit.”

In other words, of course a Super Bowl win is significant but if it does happen for Peyton, it would be symptomatic of the hard work and talent he’s put on display not only this Sunday but also since he first joined the Indianapolis Colts in 1998. Let me tell you this: One night does not a winner make. Winning, as Lombari described it, is an “all-time thing.” You’re not a winner because you score more points than the other team during a single game; you’re a winner because you made winning a habit every time you stepped onto the field.

So, what’s the message? Whether Sunday’s game really is Peyton’s last, there’s a lesson on leadership to be learned in the attention this decision brings to the true spirit of a winner. As Lombardi once said, “The spirit, the will to win, and the will to excel are the things that endure. These qualities are so much more important than the events that occur.”

Feb 5, 2016

#53 Thoughts on Leadership: The NFL and Us

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in New York City for Inman Connect, a yearly conference where innovation meets real estate and where leaders in our industry come together to brainstorm and share ideas. While at Inman, I participated in a panel discussion—“Creating Motivation Through Accountability”—and attended several events to talk shop with both new and old friends. (To see what other attendees are saying about the conference, scroll through #ICNY.)

Because New York is, well … New York, I’ve also had the opportunity to do some incredible networking while I’m here in the Big Apple like being at the NASDAQ Closing Bell Ceremony or, thanks to my pal, Max Paulsen who works at the NFL, tour the National Football League headquarters on Park Avenue.


Speaking at ?Inman Connect? on “Creating Motivation through Accountability,” along with Amy Bayer, co-founder and co-CEO of PorchLight Real Estate Group and Joseph Rand, general counsel and managing partner, Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate – Rand Realty. The session was moderated by Sherry Chris, president and CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate.

For this week’s post, I’d like to talk a little more about my visit to the NFL HQ, which was particularly meaningful because as I walked through the beautiful offices—football memorabilia on display—I couldn’t help but think about the similarities between their business and ours. Like Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, the NFL is a franchisor and has created an incredible network of franchisees—the 32 football teams in the league—that has grown to become one of the most powerful franchise networks in the world. Just as we do at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, the NFL fiercely protects and safeguards its brands, understanding the value of each brand and how easily that value can be tarnished if not treated with the proper amount of attention, respect and care.


At NFL Headquarters with Kevin Ostler, HSF Affiliates director of communications and PR, and Chris Stuart, director of franchise sales for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices.

Additionally, the football teams themselves are very much like our network’s members. Each player supports one another for the success of the team as a whole and leaders emerge from the group to help guide other players to victory. Also, NFL teams are more than just the sum of what they do on the field, similar to the way real estate agents are more than professionals who help clients buy and sell homes. As agents, you know how important this transaction is to your clients—perhaps the most important transaction of their lives—and likewise, football players understand their role not just as quarterback or tight end but also as idols andheroes to their fans. And they help out the community in which they play as any true hero should; through charity programs and initiatives like the 49ers Foundation that supports underprivileged youth in the San Francisco area. Agents, too, are avid community activists, working each day to make their neighborhood a better place for all. Think about the great work we do for the Sunshine Kids and the parallels here are easily drawn.

So, what’s the message? When you stop and analyze it, the NFL is just like us. The NFL’s clients (the fans) enthusiastically respect NFL brands, much like your clients enthusiastically respect yours. And while I haven’t yet heard of clients lining up at one of the network’s real estate offices to get an appointment with an agent like NFL fans line up for games, (you’re always ready to see your clients, right?) it’s not unusual to hear about sellers who decide to list with a Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices agent in part because they want our sign in their yard, or about customers walking into one of our network’s locations across the country simply because they love the brand.

Jan 29, 2016

#52 Thoughts on Leadership: Working Harder Always Wins

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in Florida; I first flew to Panama City, grabbed my rental car and drove to Santa Rosa Beach for the launch of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Beach Properties of Florida, a fine company led by Hunter Harman, John David Sullivan and Price Rainer. Then, I drove up to Jacksonville for an awards celebration with Linda Sherrer, Christy Budnick and the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Network Realty team.

The Florida Network Realty event was Olympics-themed with most attendees dressed in Grecian-style togas. Held at the enormous EverBank Field in Jacksonville, the celebration was filled with hundreds of Florida Network Realty agents eager to commemorate their achievements and get inspired for even more success ahead.

Gino Blefari attends the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Network Realty awards event with Christy Budnick, executive vice president of Florida Network Realty and Linda Sherrer, Florida Network Realty president and CEO.

And the ceremony certainly didn’t lack for inspiration; the featured speaker was Gregory Troy, head swimming and diving coach at the University of Florida. He was also an assistant coach for the U.S. Olympic men’s swim team in 1996 and 2008 and head coach of the 2012 U.S. Olympic men’s swim team. Troy fired up the crowd with his talk about the importance of perseverance when accomplishing your goals. Talent isn’t enough, he stressed; you must always be the one to work harder than anyone else in order to win. Sound advice for the sport of swimming and sound advice for business, too.

Hard work vs. talent has been a centuries-long debate: Is talent alone ever enough to succeed? If you took a talented real estate agent and pitted this person against one who maybe lacked the same amount of natural talent but worked harder than the agent who did, which one would find the greatest long-term success?

Kevin Durant, power forward for the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder, once said, “Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.” In other words, merely possessing talent to sell or talent to negotiate or talent to market your business isn’t enough; you must also have the determination and grit to sustain yourself when your natural ability alone can’t get the job done.

So, what’s the message? You could be the most talented sales professional on the planet but if you’re not coupling that talent with a strong work ethic, you’re short changing yourself. Use your talent and push yourself to work as hard as you can because that’s the only way you’ll become the absolute best you can be.

Jan 22, 2016


By Gino Blefari

Good evening! This week my travels find me in Raleigh, NC for a meeting with Tommy Camp, president and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Carolinas Realty and his fantastic managers. After talking leadership, best practices and recruiting with the team, we had dinner at the historic Angus Barn, a decades-old barn-turned-restaurant that is a celebrated staple of the local dining scene. (Our meal actually took place in the basement, an incredible space that featured a table so large it took up most of the room.)

The Angus Barn—also known as “Big Red”—was officially opened for business on June 28, 1960 with novice restaurateurs Than Eure Jr. and Charles Winston running the show. Neither men had any experience operating a restaurant; perhaps this was why they so boldly disregarded their detractors who said the Angus Barn project couldn’t be done. Who, these critics questioned, would visit a restaurant located along a narrow, two-lane road, desolate save a few telephone stations dotting the way?

With Tommy Camp.At the Angus Barn with Tommy Camp, president and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Carolinas Realty family of brokerages.

But Eure and Winston stood strong, unfamiliar with the restaurant industry but no strangers to censure and rejection. A year before the launch of the Angus Barn, the men faced their first hurdle after they spent $6,750 to buy 50 acres of empty farmland along Highway 70, where the Angus Barn would be built. They knew the barn would cost $200,000 to construct and so went in search of a loan. However, they visited bank after bank and couldn’t find a single person willing to take a risk on two young upstarts with not much more than a vacant pasture and lofty dreams to their names.

As a last-ditch effort, Eure went to his father, the late North Carolina Secretary of State, Thad Eure Sr., asking him to put up money for the barn. As the story goes, the senior Eure agreed, and even mortgaged his home to secure the loan. “I believe in those boys!” He famously exclaimed and so the barn construction began.

Here I’ll pause to draw an uncanny parallel to my own professional story, where I too turned to my father for help in January 2009 when I couldn’t make payroll. He, just like Eure Sr. agreed—refinancing his own house for the cause—and his belief in me and my team allowed us to pay our employees that month.

With members.With members of the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Carolinas Realty management team at The Angus Barn. From left to right: Kyle Rank, manager at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices York Simpson Underwood Realty in Chapel Hill, NC; Player Murray, manager at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices York Simpson Underwood Realty in Cary, NC; and Thomas Maier, manager at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Carolinas Realty in Kernsville, NC.

But back to the barn …

Nobody will visit such a remote spot, the naysayers warned Eure and Winston in 1959, nobody will pay you the money to build this barn. Except they would and they did because the restaurant—despite some initial hiccups—was an undeniable success and today ranks among the 100 best restaurants in the U.S. and one of the nation’s 50 highest-grossing independent restaurants. And after dining there I can understand why; the Angus Barn not only serves excellent food but the staff members at the barn also provide the kind of excellence in service you’d expect from any incredibly well-run business.

So, what’s the message? On first glance when I visited the Angus Barn last night, it seemed to be just a large, beautiful barn house; it sat on top of a hill surrounded by acres of tree-lined farmland and was painted (unsurprisingly) a deep, rustic red. But once learned about the rich history of Angus Barn, it quickly became apparent that beyond its stabled walls was a fabled tale of belief, confidence and ultimately, success in the face of certain defeat.

Jan 15, 2015


By Gino Blefari

Good evening! This week my travels find me in rainy Phoenix for the Berkshire Hathaway Energy Executive Leadership Conference. And while it might be hard to find an umbrella in this desert city, it’s easy to find inspiration at a meeting filled with dynamic and motivating leaders who stand at the helm of some of Berkshire Hathaway’s finest companies … Greg Abel, Bill Fehrman and Ron Peltier to name a few.

Just before the meeting, attendees were told we’d be given The 3G Way: Dream, People and Culture, by Francisco S. Homem De Mello, an entrepreneur and author who gleans insights from the management styles of some of the world’s best and brightest. Think Jack Welch of GE, Carlos Brito of Anheuser-Busch InBev and Marcel Telles, also of AB InBev.

The philosophy emphasized in The 3G Way begins at the top: Be the kind of open, honest, hard-working person you want your employees to be and the rest will fall into place. How? By embracing two important concepts: informality and candor.

First, let’s talk about informality. In the book, the author quotes Jack Welch, who I can confidently say after reading several of his books and studying his style, is one of my favorite CEOs. (Not to mention, we are the same height and he started GE in my hometown of Pittsfield, MA.) Welch described informality as the cornerstone to all great organizations. “Informality is … an atmosphere in which anyone can deliver a view, an idea, to anyone else and it will be listened to and valued, regardless of the seniority of any party involved,” Welch explained. “Leaders today must be equally comfortable making a sales call or sitting in a boardroom; informality is an operating philosophy as well as a cultural characteristic.”

Against the strong currents of an ever-changing real estate industry, informality is crucial to keep a company afloat. No longer can organizations remained mired in titles, rigid hierarchy or ego but instead must be fluid as this Phoenix rain, able to recognize good ideas no matter their source and execute with little delay. This means eliminating overly complex processes and fostering an atmosphere where fresh, creative thought isn’t just welcomed but also encouraged.

Next, candor, a concept warmly tied to informality. When a leader is candid, there are no secrets kept or surprises withheld; there is only fact, communicated through frank conversation and straight-forward dialogue. Homem De Mello defined a candid company as one in which “people discuss topics openly, with little tolerance for internal politics, hidden agendas and opacity.” Not to be confused with contempt, candor allows for anyone in an organization to speak their mind, so long as they remain respectful and constructive. Remember, criticism is a good thing, for it helps us grow and clarity is even better for it lets everyone know exactly where they stand.

So, what’s the message? Favor simplicity over complexity and fact over ambiguity. Drive your business on the power of good ideas, even if they originate from the most unlikely of places. Because when it comes to growth, informality and candor must always lead the way.

Jan 08, 2015

#49 Thursday Thoughts on Leadership: Happy New Year

By Gino Blefari

As 2016 approaches and 2015 comes to a close, I want to reflect for a moment on a fantastic year gone by.

Our Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices network has grown to more than 40,000 agents and 1,200 offices operating in all but three states. As important, we’re adding elite, new affiliates in key U.S. markets while our current family of brokerages continues to thrive. This year we announced our intentions to expand across the globe while making serious strides to capture the international buyer’s market here at home. Watch for more on this exciting initiative in 2016! In addition, we gave away $50,000 in a record-setting sweepstakes with HGTV superstars Chip and Joanna Gaines, launched at a packed Sales Convention in Las Vegas.

We’ve had gains not just in the residential arena but also in our Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Commercial Real Estate division. We’ve improved our CRE value proposition to ensure the delivery of quality products and services to our affiliates. Currently, we offer our CRE professionals a best-in-class technology platform, with additional enhancements planned for the coming year.

In 2015, we released a new national commercial—voted best real estate TV spot by more than 15,000 Inman News readers—and significantly enhanced our mobile app. We advanced our thought leadership program by creating a quarterly Homeowner Sentiment Survey, last week making national headlines for our insights on the Fed’s interest rate hike in major media outlets including, CNBC, The Washington Post and CNNMoney. Through the success of our survey, we didn’t merely react to the real estate conversation but in many ways, created it.

Our Real Living Real Estate family is also making tremendous progress. We are growing our network with new affiliates in key U.S. markets while our current family of brokerages continues to thrive. Our distinctive brand positioning is essential as we embrace the power to be us and the freedom to be you.

Real Living Real Estate is a network built for entrepreneurs with the kind of innovative mindset that makes our companies stand apart in their marketplace. This year, the spirit of our brand was celebrated in events from Nashville to San Antonio, as Real Living professionals came together from offices near and far.

Additionally, we rebranded our nationally-recognized customer service program, Real Living 360 ServiceSM, designed to provide a strong foundation of quality service for our customers so we can achieve the highest level of accountability and client satisfaction. Exceptional service is-and will always be-the foundation of Real Living’s values and our industry-leading independent ratings prove our commitment to this goal. We also made major enhancements to the RealLiving.com site design and are preparing to launch a new version of Market Advantage as the year ends.

Still, as much as we accomplished together in 2015, we aren’t a network focused on what’s behind us. Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices and Real Living Real Estate are brands built on the future, on creating a great real estate industry of today … and tomorrow. We are constantly moving forward—never complacent—and always making strides to become better, stronger, wiser and more unique.

And that’s why as celebrate the New Year with family and friends, it’s important to congratulate yourself on a job well done while also understanding there’s much left to do in 2016. In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Without ambition one starts with nothing. Without work one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it.”

Let’s win.

Happy New Year,


Dec 30, 2015

#48 Thursday Thoughts on Leadership: Homeowner Sentiment Survey

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me getting work done in an unseasonably cold Northern California. And while checking emails and conducting conference calls, the following message was also busy sending the Twitter world abuzz:


The tweet, written by CNBC reporter Diana Olick, referred to the Federal Reserve’s decision (check #FedDecision for the latest tweets) to raise the target federal funds rate by a quarter point, the first time rates have been raised in any meaningful way since 2006. The move, in the context of Federal Reserve history, may appear monumental but Diana gets the story completely right when she says it just doesn’t matter.

In our latest Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Homeowner Sentiment Survey, shared several hours before the Fed went public with its announcement, we found that 67% of prospective homeowners already categorized the level of today’s mortgage rates as “average” or “high.” This number is pure reflection of a simple fact: An entire generation of first-time buyers have never experienced a meaningful rate increase and have no previous experience with mortgage rates.


Further, the survey found that should mortgage rates rise in response to a boost in the fed fund rate – and as we all know, they did – many prospective homeowners said they would have to alter their home searches and 51% would adjust their savings pace. In addition, exactly half of prospective homeowners believed they would experience more difficulty affording their ideal home. Current homeowners, whose ranks are mostly Boomers and Gen-Xers, said that increased mortgage payments would mean more personal sacrifices in areas such as family vacations, home improvements and shopping.

Fed policymakers have said the pace at which they’ll raise interest rates will be gradual – an increase of a quarter of a percentage point is typical. A similar rise in mortgage rates would add about $43 a month to a hypothetical $300,000, 30-year mortgage with a 3.75% rate. A bump in mortgage rates has more bark than bite. According to a study by the National Coffee Association, the average American spends about twice as much every month on coffee.

So, what’s the message? As always, our agents and the industry as a whole must take great care to educate buyers and sellers about the real estate process, which includes mortgage rates. A Fed rate increase may grab people’s attention, yet the cost of borrowing money to buy a home remains historically low by all measurements. From our perspective, even though we can’t predict the future, it looks like mortgage rates will remain attractive, and that’s good for consumers and the real estate market.

Dec 17, 2015

#47 Thursday Thoughts on Leadership: December Inspiration

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in Irvine, CA at the HSF Affiliates LLC headquarters for a leadership meeting and a Town Hall with the entire Irvine-based staff. During these get-togethers, my team will discuss motivation and inspiration, reflecting on our past year and looking forward to a year of growth and prosperity ahead.

Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, once said, “The best way to predict your future is to create it.” And in fact, the name of your game this December should be proactivity. If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to think and plan out how to have a breakthrough 2016. To get you started, here are some ways to increase productivity and success in the new year:

  • Fill up your January calendar now; set as many appointments as you can. This way, when January rolls around, you won’t be waiting for business to pick back up.
  • Call everyone in your circle of influence and wish them happy holidays. You can use the F.O.R.D. method and ask them about their family, occupation, recreation and dreams to stir conversation.
  • Host a client appreciation cocktail reception. Be sure to interact with all your invited guests and let them know you’re grateful for their business.
  • Invite VIP contacts to events you’re already hosting or attending.
  • Send a personalized holiday card with an enclosed gift certificate to a local store.

So, what’s the message? No matter what you do this month, the key is to keep it personal and rooted in holiday cheer. Don’t make your efforts overly promotional or agenda driven. Your goal this December should be to show your customers, clients, friends and family just how much you care.

Dec 10, 2015


By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me in Nashville, TN for the Real Living Connection conference. However, I want to travel back a bit farther — not in distance but in time — to twenty four hundred years ago when Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, first started to contemplate the idea that differences in human behavior follow a recognizable pattern. Ever since this discovery, scientists and researchers alike have studied the concepts of behavior and personality. Notably, in 1928, Harvard-trained psychologist Dr. William Marston wrote “The Emotions of Normal People,” in which he put forth the idea that people are motivated by four intrinsic drives — represented by four letters of the alphabet, D,I,S,C, — that define behavioral patterns. And so, a concept called DISC was born.

Bob LeFever

Bob LeFever speaks at Real Living Connection

But back to Nashville and the conference at hand. During the general session at Real Living Connection, Bob LeFever, renowned ex-FBI official and real estate expert, spoke about the DISC theory at length and how it was applied not just to his work with the FBI but how it can also be applied to fundamental real estate concepts like recruiting, retention and customer service. It all begins by identifying the proper behavioral quadrant of the person you’re engaging.

Here are the four quadrants of the DISC theory:

D – This person displays Dominance. He or she likes to take action and challenge established norms.

I – This person is defined by Influence. He or she will be enthusiastic and will enjoy collaborating with others.

S – This person is defined by Steadiness; he or she seeks stability in all things.

C – This person is defined by Conscientiousness and pays close attention to detail.

Once you determine in which quadrant your colleague belongs, you can tailor your own behavior accordingly. DISC theory can help determine how you should best proceed whether you’re negotiating a contract, presenting a listing or interviewing a potential recruit.

So, what’s the message? DISC theory can be a powerful tool in your real estate toolbox, allowing you to better understand the natural tendencies of your associate. And through this understanding, you can build a strong rapport and ultimately, an even stronger level of trust that will take you far in business … and, I’d argue, in life.

Dec 4, 2015

#45 Thursday Thoughts on Leadership: A Time To Give Thanks

By Gino Blefari

Today, I want to talk about Thanksgiving. We as human beings, Americans and yes, members of the HSF Affiliates and HomeServices of America, Inc. families, work very hard and always maintain a strong work ethic. Yet, as busy as we get, there are times when it’s important to step back, reflect and be thankful for all we have and all of the people in our lives we’re blessed to have around us. There are many reasons why Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday (and no, it’s not just the food coma and football) but I want to share one story that is particularly meaningful for me as we approach Thanksgiving Day:When we think of Thanksgiving, there are certain things that immediately come to mind: the scent of pumpkin pie and sweet potatoes baking in the oven; the sight of a golden, just-roasted turkey being carried to the table; the image of our family, gathered happily as we prepare to eat. Some with history on the brain might even think of the pilgrims, our distant ancestors who, in 1621 after the first harvest in the New World, dined with almost 90 Native Americans for a three-day feast now known as the “First Thanksgiving.”However, when we think of Thanksgiving, most do not think of Sarah Josepha Hale. As the person credited with turning Thanksgiving into a celebrated national holiday, we should.Hale, born Oct. 24, 1788 in Newport, NH, was a writer of fiction and poetry, (among her poems, a short rhyme called “Mary Had a Little Lamb”). In addition to crafting popular verse, Hale was also a devoted advocate of American unionism and campaigned relentlessly for Thanksgiving to be recognized as a national holiday.So important was this gathering to the passionate Hale that she begin in 1846 to write letters to anyone with an address and a healthy dose of patriotism—powerful governors, ministers living abroad, navy Commanders, five American Presidents—urging them to make Thanksgiving a holiday uniformly celebrated throughout the United States during the last week of November. At the time, Thanksgiving was commemorated at the discretion of each state; sometimes in October, sometimes in January but never on the very same day for all and Hale saw this as a missed opportunity to strengthen national character through tradition and routine.Finally, after 17 years of Thanksgiving campaigning and a polite but direct letter to then-President Abraham Lincoln, Hale was heard:“The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with blessings of fruitful fields and healthy skies,” wrote Lincoln in a proclamation called ‘Thanksgiving Day 1863.’ “It seems to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving.” So, what’s the message? Sarah Josepha Hale, a lesser-known character in the story of Thanksgiving, was a visionary leader who understood the importance of congregating together over pumpkin pies and turkey because it means precious time spent with family and friends to celebrate every happiness and bounty in our lives. And for that, we should all give thanks.

Nov 24, 2015

#44 Thoughts on Leadership: All About Good Neighbors

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me in San Diego for the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) 2015 Conference and Expo. While there, I had the opportunity to spend time backstage with Susan Stearns, agent with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties in Calabasas, CA, just moments before she stood in front of a crowd of thousands to accept her 2015 Good Neighbor Award. NAR’s Good Neighbor Awards are given annually to five REALTORS® who, according to REALTOR® Magazine, “have made an extraordinary impact on their community, or on the national or world stage, through volunteer work.”Susan received this tremendous honor in recognition of three decades working with New Horizons, a non-profit based in Southern California that empowers more than 1,000 individuals with special needs to fulfill their dreams. “New Horizons gives people the opportunity to feel a sense of accomplishment with what they contribute to the community,” explained New Horizons CEO Cynthia Sewell in a video tribute to Susan.Since 1985, Susan has dedicated her time and resources to New Horizons, founding the New Horizons development committee, serving for eight years as fundraising chair and then two years as president and chair of the board of directors. Due to her unflagging efforts, Sewell estimates Susan has personally donated or raised nearly $250,000 for the organization.According to Susan, her volunteer work underscores the idea that altruism is—and should always be—a quality inherent to every real estate agent. “Find a charity that you have compassion for,” Susan told REALTOR® Magazine in an interview. “It’s good for the community to know what a REALTOR® is, that they??re not just there trying to sell houses. They’re there to make the community a better place.”(By the way, you can click here to view all the 2015 Good Neighbor Award winners.)Along with Susan’s Good Neighbor Award, members of our Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices network were recognized at NAR’s 2015 Conference and Expo, including:

  • Jean Crosby of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Crosby Starck Real Estate in Rockford, IL, who won the National Association of REALTORS® 2015 Distinguished Service Award for her outstanding contributions to the real estate industry and leadership within her local community.
  • Dona Reynolds with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Stein & Summers Real Estate in St. Joseph, MO, who received Honorable Mention for the 2015 Good Neighbor Awards.
I’d also like to congratulate RISMedia President and CEO John Featherston, who won the ‘On the Shoulder of Giants’ Award at the RISMedia Power Broker Dinner, a well-deserved acknowledgement for a true titan of innovation and intelligence in the real estate industry.So what’s the message? Leadership is never something that starts or ends with yourself. Leadership is about finding those opportunities—no matter how big or small—when you can make the lives of those around you better, which is exactly the definition of what every good neighbor should be.Nov 20, 2015

#43 Thoughts On Leadership: Strategies To Connect

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me first in Northern California for a visit with the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Drysdale Properties team and then to San Diego for the 2015 National Association of REALTORS® Conference and Expo. (If you’re planning to attend, stop by and say hello at the HSF Affiliates Booth #1615!) As my team prepares to meet and greet hundreds of real estate professionals, sharing our network stories and listening to theirs, it’s essential we remember the very basics of genuine connection in order to create lasting, memorable impressions in the minds of all we meet. Here are some ways to truly connect … whether you’re attending NAR, taking a business meeting with a potential new client or participating in a networking event, these strategies always apply:

  • Be yourself. Talk real, act real, be real and you will find that others will do the same in return.
  • Be friendly and smile; when you smile you’re much more approachable than when you don’t.
  • Connect without motive or need; take a genuine interest in other people before you ask them to take a genuine interest in you.
  • Find common ground; the sooner you do, barriers to connection disappear.
  • Provide value; it’s the surest way to garner a positive perception that will last.

So what’s the message? As we attend NAR Conference & Expo to learn from and interact with fellow industry professionals, it’s important to remember that traditional values never go out of style. Real estate is and always will be a people business perpetuated by genuine connection and the more we can foster those authentic connections, the better leaders we’ll be.

Nov 17, 2015


By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me in Minneapolis to present my third quarter report and the 2016 budget to the HomeServices of America, Inc. board. Then I headed west to San Francisco, where the autumn season and my recent forward-looking meetings played unexpectedly on my mind.


Dr. Pete Zidnak

In Northern California, the leaves are still colorful on the trees, and this year, the fall season brought with it back-to-school memories of my days attending San Jose State University. I still vividly remember the late Dr. Pete Zidnak, my professor for business management, dressed sharply with an ever-present bow tie, who always began his lectures by reciting a quote to inspire the class of young and eager business minds. I was only 21, a junior in college, when he one day quoted Benjamin Franklin—“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail”—but in the years following that momentous day, I’ve taken to heart the wisdom these words contain. Now an enthusiastic proponent of time management, I plan everything with exacting detail—just as I did this week in Minneapolis—and you should, too.

In real estate, we operate on a 90-day cycle. What you do today affects your business 90 days from now. This means careful planning must be involved in order to ensure future success. It’s no secret real estate agents and real estate companies encounter cash-flow problems in January and February but it’s my own often-shared secret that the way to combat this is with a solid business plan for the entire year ahead. Ideally, this business planning should be completed by Oct. 1 but if you haven’t started, give yourself a deadline of Thanksgiving, so that 90 days from now, when the market typically slows, you avoid the countless cash-flow issues plaguing those who didn’t bother to plan.

And as you plan your year ahead, here are some suggestions for your calendar:

  • I always start my planning by notating the things that provide balance in my life. Real estate agents often feel like they’re working 25 hours a day but in truth, when you note every day off, every holiday, vacation, birthday, date night, exercise class you’ll take, it’ll quickly become apparent that there’s much more potential for balance in your life than you realize.
  • Next, look at the educational opportunities you’ll take advantage of in 2016. Mark all the training you’ll do—both personally and professionally—to enhance your life and your business.
  • After that, write down your business activities, which include prospecting, lead follow-up, office meetings, staff meetings, appointments and more.
  • Finally, remember to block time for company events, charity gatherings and conferences like Sales Convention.

So, what’s the message? Time management is the only way to accomplish your goals and it happens through a combination of preparedness and planning. Because just as Benjamin Franklin understood, once you know what your year will look like, you will never again find yourself sitting in your office hoping for success … you’ll plan on it.

Nov 05, 2015

#41 Thoughts on Leadership: Team Up to Win

By Gino Blefari

Last week while my travels found me in Las Vegas, our finance team—led by Brian Peterson, CFO of HSF Affiliates—was in Braselton, GA, at the beautiful Château Élan Winery & Resort for the 2015 CFO Conference.It was a classic case of divide and conquer: Brian held down the fort on the East Coast while I attended meetings in the West, thousands of miles apart from my Chief Financial Officer but still understanding that our key messages must be perfectly aligned. This conscious alignment is vital not only to our operations here at HSF Affiliates but also to any company with a CEO and CFO working closely together for the betterment of all.In most industries, this relationship wasn’t always as tight-knit as it is today. For years, the CFO was thought of as the person at the helm of the finance function in an organization, a man or woman of spreadsheets and economic models who crunched numbers while the CEO exercised his or her business savvy to steer a company in the direction of increased growth.Today, however, this stereotype has been obliterated; the relationship between the CEO and CFO has completely changed. Chief Financial Officers are called upon by their Chief Executive Officers to help with the organization’s strategic planning and oversight, sometimes stepping far outside the boundaries of traditional financial projects because it’s widely recognized that their expertise is a necessary, valuable component to accomplish a company’s wildly important goals.So, what’s the message? The next time you have an important, strategic decision to make, don’t go at it alone. Look to your CFO, to your marketing director, to your mentor, to your sales team with boots on the ground … someone with specialized knowledge who can provide perspective outside of your own. As leaders, trusting in our team isn’t just good practice, it’s the only way to succeed.

Oct 30, 2015

#40 Thoughts on Leadership: Do the Wright Thing

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me in Las Vegas for a meeting with Mark Stark, CEO/owner of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Arizona Properties, Nevada Properties and California Properties. Along with other affiliates on our Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices team, we met to discuss new business models for recruiting, retention and onboarding, new innovations and new technologies that would push our brokerages forward and make us a more efficient network for our agents and the buyers and sellers we serve.The scheduling of this meeting couldn’t have been better timed; I’ve recently been reading “The Wright Brothers,” a biography of the world’s first aviators written by New York Times bestselling author, David McCullough. In “The Wright Brothers,” McCullough describes Orville and Wilbur Wright not as straight-forward heroes of American folklore who simply built a plane and then flew it in the sky, but as struggling inventors who fought with public perception as much as they did serious headwinds.“We couldn’t help thinking they were just a pair of poor nuts,” said one resident of Kitty Hawk, N.C. where the Wright brothers worked on their aircraft.But, as McCullough explains, the Wright brothers, even from an early age, were always fans of going against the norm. In their youth, Wilbur and Orville developed a penchant for bicycles, two-wheeled machines seen in the 1890s as vehicles that could cause impressionable, young boys and girls to ride far from their homes and their books, toward less acceptable or appropriate hobbies. Later, this curiosity for the science of motion led the Wright Brothers to look up into the sky.At the time the Wright Brothers were working on what would then become the first modern airplane, aerial propulsion was thought of as a wild, imaginary concept better suited for the birds. I don’t think I’d be spoiling the book to say the Wright Brothers did eventually invent a working flying machine, defying the odds and those who simply said they never could.So, what’s the message? Whether inventing something wholly new like the Wright Brothers or brainstorming new concepts like our team did in Las Vegas, dare to dream and don’t hold back. Because if you think something is possible, there’s no reason you can’t take that idea and make it fly.

Oct 23, 2015


Last week, while at the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Summit Conference, I had the opportunity to hear keynote speaker Josh Linkner deliver a fascinating talk about creative disruption. As Josh explained, creative disruption has a very specific definition in the context of an increasingly stale business world focused on the bottom line instead of innovation and progress.

Josh’s premise about creative disruption is masterfully detailed in his book, “The Road to Reinvention: How to Drive Disruption and Accelerate Transformation.” In essence, Josh says true disruption often comes from small, start-up companies. While large organizations are busy protecting the “Golden Goose,” entrepreneurs have nothing to defend … and this works in their favor. Their every thought must be about ways to break traditional business models rather than maintaining them; they must invent a new, improved approach to business in order to survive.

Here are some of the traits Josh associates with small vs. big companies:


Source: Josh Linkner


With Josh Linkner at Summit Conference in Palm Beach, FL.

As an example of creative disruption, Josh cites the Dollar Shave Club, a company going after the established brands in the razor industry, like Gillette. You’ve probably seen Dollar Shave Club’s witty, edgy commercials—they’re hilarious! The first one, (which by the way cost the company just over $4,000 to produce), was written by CEO Michael Dubin—talk about a nimble, idea-centric leader—and shot on location in an actual Dollar Shave Factory by Dubin’s good friend. Even more impressive, the spot was filmed in a single day! The result? Dollar Shave Club’s video went viral, boasting more than 19 million views. A recent report values Dollar Shave Club at $615 million.

So, what’s the message? We can all think like entrepreneurs and we can all think small, since this approach is a mindset and has nothing to do with our company or network size. Thinking small will allow us to disrupt any industry for years to come.

Oct 16, 2015

#38 Thoughts on Leadership: Peanut Island And A Trip To The Past

“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” – John F. Kennedy

This week my travels found me sailing the clear blue waters of the Lake Worth Lagoon in Palm Beach, on a boat with hundreds of top-producing agents from the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices network. It was an ideal day complete with warm ocean breezes, South Florida sunshine and of course, great company.The cruise was part of the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Summit Conference, an annual event (held this year at The Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach) to celebrate the achievements of our award-winning agents. And it was only by coincidence that among conversations about the bright future ahead for these top performers, I was immediately reminded of the past as our boat took a turn and I caught a glimpse of Peanut Island across the way.Now, if you didn’t already know, I’m a huge fan of American history and of the brilliant leaders—like General George Patton, President Abraham Lincoln and President John F. Kennedy—who made our country the great nation it is today.


The Honey Fitz, John F. Kennedy’s presidential yacht, (with the American flag) was docked in the harbor when we sailed in Palm Beach this week.

So, here’s your quick history lesson about Peanut Island, a small, man-made landmass produced in 1918 with material dredged to create the Lake Worth Inlet in Palm Beach: If you visit the island now, you’ll find it’s been converted to the Palm Beach Maritime Museum. However, during the Cold War, when many thought the world might end at the push of one big, red button, Peanut Island served as a nuclear blast shelter for President John F. Kennedy. Kennedy often spent winters at his estate in Palm Beach (with frequent trips on his yacht, the Honey Fitz, pictured at left). In late December 1961, shortly after he was elected president, it was decided that a fallout shelter was needed near his Florida homestead. (The fallout shelter that was eventually built was only a few hundred yards from a Coast Guard station, five minutes from the Kennedy estate by helicopter and 15 minutes by boat.)Over the course of just two weeks, a top-secret mission was conducted to erect a 1,500-square-foot bunker complete with a decontamination room, Geiger counters that could detect radiation and a ham radio to communicate with the world beyond.For three years, the bunker remained operational, stocked with enough food to sustain 30 people for 30 days and (ironically) water in lead-lined cans. It wasn’t until Kennedy’s assassination in 1963 that the bunker was abandoned and it would remain untouched until the 1990s when the city of Palm Beach decided to turn it into a tribute to the Cold War.So, what’s the message? Some leaders tend to focus only on the future, paying attention just to the “what’s up ahead” view they can clearly see. But leadership isn’t a surface endeavor; it goes much deeper than that. Because true leadership means understanding that even when you’re faithfully focused on the future, it’s always important to keep a vigilant eye on the rich lessons that can be learned from the past.

Oct 09, 2015

#37 Thoughts on Leadership: Why You Shouldn’t Just Try

By Gino Blefari

This week, Inc. Magazine asked me to name one jargon term I thought should be eliminated from business-speak. My pick? “Try.”Let me explain: “Try” is the absolute arch-nemesis to accomplishment, a word loathed by leaders around the world … and beyond. (Even Jedi Master Yoda famously said, “Do or do not. There is no try.”)Too often “try” is used as an excuse for failure, a simple—and often accepted—justification for why something just couldn’t get done. (“Well, at least I tried, right?”) However, those who seek true greatness understand the fault in this philosophy because it underscores a lack of passion that will continually block success. John Assaraf, New York Times bestselling author of Having It All: Achieving Your Life’s Goals and Dreams, once said, “When you are interested, you do what’s convenient. When you are committed, you do whatever it takes.” Assaraf’s explanation gets to the core of why “try” is such a despicable term. Those who are passionate about realizing a dream will never settle for simply “trying” to make it happen; they won’t stop until they’ve reached their goal.Here’s another example: One of the best books I’ve read on finance is Money: Master the Game by Tony Robbins, who also has an interesting take on “try.” A few years ago, Robbins held a marriage seminar during which a wife, struggling in her relationship, complained that she had “tried everything” and was ready to give up. Tony responded to her statement by asking her to “try” to pick up the chair she was sitting on. Confused, the woman easily picked it up. Tony shook his head. “No, I said try to pick it up. You actually did it.”So, what’s the message? The word “try” is easy to say and easier to blame as the reason for failure when more times than not, it’s the one thing standing in the way of success. So don’t be a “try” kind of leader. Be a leader of conviction, commitment and whole-heartedness who sees goals not as things to be “tried” but as absolutes that will simply get done. Once you eliminate “try” from your vocabulary, you’ll be amazed at how much you can really achieve.

Oct 2, 2015


By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me in Chicago for the 2015 National Convention of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals®. NAHREP® is The Voice for Hispanic Real Estate® and an incredibly important organization that works tirelessly to help Hispanic families achieve the American Dream of homeownership. (I wrote about this association in a previous post you can read here.) It was an honor to meet with NAHREP® members and leaders, like Teresa Palacios Smith, agent with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Georgia Properties, who serves as NAHREP® president.After Chicago, I departed for Minneapolis to attend a board meeting and from there made my way to Iowa to speak with the amazing Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices First Realty team in Des Moines.And in between meetings and conferences, I made time to listen to—or better, re-listen to—The Richest Man in Babylon by George Samuel Clason on audiobook. You might already know I’m an avid fan of business-related books, and I rank this one high on the list of top financial literature. The book is written as a series of parables set in ancient Babylon—published in 1926—but even though it was released almost a century ago and describes a time long before this, the relevancy of its core principles rings truer than ever, even to this day. Here are some of my favorite quotes:“A part of all you earn is yours to keep.”“Always do the affairs of [man and woman]* change and improve because keen-minded [men and women] seek greater skill that they may better serve those upon whose patronage they depend. Therefore, I urge all [men and women] to be in the front rank of progress and not to stand still, lest they be left behind.”“In tilling the soil, in honest trading, in all of [man and woman]’s occupations, there is opportunity to make a profit upon [his or her] efforts and [his or her] transactions. Perhaps not all the time will [he or she] be rewarded because sometimes [his or her] judgment may be faulty and other times the winds and the weather may defeat [his or her] efforts. Yet, if [he or she] persists, [he or she] may usually expect to realize [his or her] profit. This is so because the chances of profit are always in [his or her] favor.”*All quotes originally expressed by Clason with masculine references.So, what’s the message? Financial achievements in business don’t come along by chance. They come about with perseverance, persistence and a willingness to learn—through experiences like NAHREP® or by listening to the thoughts of smart thinkers like Clason—because it’s only when you allow yourself to grow do you give yourself any chance to succeed.Grow for it!

Sep 25, 2015

#35 Thoughts on Leadership: Follow the Leaders

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels first found me in Washington, D.C. to meet with the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices PenFed Realty team and Kevin Wiles, their talented president. I spent the day speaking to these fine agents and managers then traveled to New York City for RISMedia’s CEO Exchange. This annual event is a can’t-miss opportunity to gather with real estate’s preeminent minds as they discuss all things from mortgage regulations and data control to sustainable success and broker best practices. Each year I depart the Big Apple with incredible insights and a renewed sense of purpose in the direction our industry is headed … and this meeting proved no exception.But before we get into the details, let’s take a step back and talk a little bit about leadership in general. Leaders, at their very core, must possess two basic abilities: the first is to lead, the second, to follow. Of course leaders must be able to forge a new path for their team, one that is well-strategized and has a clear, wildly important goal at its end. However, just as importantly, leaders must also understand when it’s best to follow … and by that I mean listen and learn from the paths taken by others. This gets to the heartbeat of coaching and mentoring—two initiatives I openly support—and also explains why any of us would attend events like the CEO Exchange, so we might gain perspectives on business that in many cases differ from our own.Now, let’s return to the conference. I’d like to highlight for you some notable leaders whose industry acumen shined this week in Manhattan:
  • The event kicked off with a session moderated by RISMedia President and CEO John Featherston, who eloquently spoke to a panel of power brokers about blueprints for success. Panelist Mark Stark, CEO and owner of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Nevada Properties, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Arizona Properties and Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties, shared his unique business model that focuses on the agent as his primary customer, with his purpose as broker/owner to help him or her create a robust business within his brokerage. Of course he also stressed the importance of teams—Mark has been a proponent of teams going clear back to 2000—and explained that he treats every agent as a team, even if he or she operates alone.
  • Next, Jon Coile, president and CEO of Champion Realty, Inc., provided memorable insights as a panelist for a session titled, “The Fate of Data Control.” He spoke about his solutions to untangle the complex web of real estate data as it relates to brokers, agents and consumers.
  • After this session, Candace Adams, president and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties and Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Westchester Properties, participated in “Turning Data into Dollars: Broker Strategies for Leveraging Online Leads.” Candace knowledgeably articulated her thoughts on strategies for generating, cultivating and closing online leads.
  • Today, Paul Charron, Chairman of the Board of Campbell Soup Company, former chairman and CEO of Liz Claiborne Inc., delivered powerful words on leadership, in essence explaining that leaders must focus on effectiveness over efficiency and manage their time to fit this approach. He cautioned against getting caught up in the whirlwind of the day-to-day and instead urged leaders to focus on strategy and big-picture initiatives that would drive profitability and growth. His anti-bureaucratic philosophy about leadership was refreshing and the humility with which he conveyed his perspective made the entire talk a pleasure to experience and digest.
  • Finally, the CEO Exchange culminated with a super session on sustainable success, moderated by Dermot Buffini, CEO of Buffini & Company. Dermot did a great job not only directing the discussion but also pointing out the importance of coaching and training for increased productivity and growth. Panelists included Gretchen Pearson, president and broker/owner of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Drysdale Properties and Joan Docktor, president of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach, REALTORS®, who both explained ways to increase agent productivity, build motivation and operate a brokerage efficiency in order to find lasting success.
So what’s the message? Simply put, no matter who you are or how experienced you are, you can always learn from the lessons of others.

Sep 21, 2015

#34 Thoughts on Leadership

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in San Antonio for Real Living Momentum 2015, an event celebrating Real Living sales professionals from around the country. As I spend time in this Texas town lined by river walks and traditional, Spanish- style architecture, it’s hard not to imagine how the city appeared in the early 19th century, when the west was far wilder and brave frontiersmen and women fought tirelessly to safeguard their land.I’ve long been fascinated by American history and its notable characters, so being here in San Antonio easily brings to mind thoughts of the Texas Revolution and swashbuckling tales of Davy Crockett, an American hero who died defending the Alamo in 1836. Yet, even before Crockett fought alongside his fellow Texan soldiers in present-day San Antonio, the onetime congressman had been hailed a hero of free-thinking—he famously opposed President Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act and much earlier, ran away from home at the age of 13.However, while no doubt a brave character, historians often wonder what sparked America’s collective imagination to hold Crockett in such high esteem. What was—and is—it about this enigmatic figure that has so deeply fascinated us through countless Crockett-themed movies, TV specials and books? The answer might be found in Crockett’s own words. “Let your tongue speak what your heart thinks,” he once famously said, and in truth, experts do attribute much of his fame to an uncanny ability to articulate thoughts with honesty and ease.As a study on Crockett conducted by the University of Virginia noted: “Although he was admired for being a strong, hard and heroic frontiersman, the obsessive admiration of Davy Crockett was due in large part to his humor. He was charismatic and possessed the mastery of vernacular coupled with common sense that made him a natural storyteller with the power to enthrall his audience and parody his opponents.”So, what’s the message? Being a leader means constantly seeking new ways to inspire and motivate. However, while we often look outward to accomplish this—maybe in lessons from others in our industry or to articles written about our field—it’s important to sometimes look inward for answers, and take a cue from Davy Crockett, who was admired nationwide not for his ability to be just like everyone else but for his incomparable tenacity of spirit and mind.

Sep 11, 2015

#33 Thoughts on Leadership: The Logic of Preseason

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me in Irvine to meet with our talented franchise sales directors for a three-day conference held at HSF Affiliates LLC headquarters. As the meeting progressed, one thing became clear: Our sales team is among the finest in real estate and each director works tirelessly to find ideal franchisee candidates within their assigned sphere. They’re skillful players on a team positioned to win big this year in key markets across the country—and in time, around the globe.So, if these women and men are so fantastic at what they do, why, you might ask, hold a three-day meeting at all? My answer to that question can best be explained by the logic behind the National Football League preseason, which happened to coincide with our sales team gathering.Preseason takes place in August and early September and finds NFL teams competing against each other during a handful of not-for-the-record exhibition games prior to the start of the regular football season; it’s a time when stakes are low and players can rid any rust from the offseason. Here’s what Mike McCarthy, head coach of the Green Bay Packers, once said about it:“Preseason football is hard to evaluate. It’s never going to be clean for the quarterbacks. You have to overcome the ugly plays and be productive. It’s a component of leadership that is necessary. The guys that make it in the league survive that.”In essence, preseason football is akin to a dress rehearsal before the big show, just as our sales meeting served as a time when our team could speak openly in a low-pressure environment as we gear up for 2016 and beyond. This presented a unique opportunity to analyze, assess and create a consistent playbook for our sales strategy going forward … free from the stress of prospective or unfinished deals. In three days, our franchise sales directors had precious off-the-record time to realign systems and processes so they could return to the field with a renewed sense of confidence in their ability to achieve.So what’s the message? Every team—no matter how successful—must take a step back from time to time and evaluate performance; there are always challenges to be overcome and gaps to be filled on the road of productivity and success. Never underestimate the power of assessment and never rest on your laurels. Because, as NFL preseason has taught us, sometimes even the greatest Super Bowl champions need a little practice.

Sep 03, 2015


By Gino Blefari

“Now the first of December was covered with snow, and so was the turnpike from Stockton to Boston. The Berkshires seemed dream-like on account of that frosting, with ten miles behind me and ten thousand more to go.” – James Taylor, Sweet Baby James, 1970This week my travels find me all around Massachusetts and the entire experience feels just like a return home. Yes, it’s true that I’m a mere 50 miles from my hometown of Pittsfield, MA, a city shaped by vast swathes of picturesque countryside and tucked into the heart of the Berkshires, but beyond the familiar New England locale, it’s really the warmth of the people I’ve met that makes this trip seem familiar as a good old James Taylor song.I began my visit Tuesday morning at the office of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Warren Residential, located right in the center of the bustling Boston metropolis. The Warren Residential team members were energetic and enthusiastic; I was honored to meet each and every one of them.The next day, it was off to Bowes Real Estate Real Living in Arlington, MA to speak with an amazing group of agents, managers and staff. I was humbled by the heartfelt reception and was equally charmed by the quaint Bowes Real Living office—a large, colonial-style house painted light yellow. (And, as a remarkable side note, these 19 agents are not only the #1 brokerage in their market but they also out-produced #2, 3, 4 and 5 combined in Arlington.)That afternoon, I headed to Franklin, MA for a meeting with Real Living Realty Group, which was also attended by team members from Real Living Barbera Associates in Worcester, MA and Real Living Schruender Real Estate in North Andover, MA. Real Living Realty Group is well positioned amid all the action in Franklin, just a football’s toss from Foxborough and Gillette Stadium where the New England Patriots play. Again, as I spoke for several hours, I was struck by the eagerness of the agents to learn, grow and share their knowledge.Today, I met with the incredible team at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices N.E. Prime Properties in Maynard, MA and I left impressed by the talented group. Tomorrow, I’ll meet with Real Living Realty Professionals in West Springfield, MA before flying home from Hartford, CT.So, what’s the message? If I could, I’d name every single agent, broker and staff member I had the pleasure of meeting during my Massachusetts travels but I’ll keep things short and say that you have all inspired me through and through. And there’s the message. Success isn’t a singular, isolating thing; it happens when we come together, as friends and comrades working toward the achievement of well-aligned goals, so that no matter where we are or where we go, it’ll always feel like a trip home.

Aug 31, 2015


Pictured above (L to R): John Thompson; Gino Blefari; Brian Buffini; Tom Tognoli; Darren Hardy; Dermot Buffini; Brian Wildermuth; and Mike Lancaster backstage just moments before Darren Hardy addressed the crowd.

This week my travels again found me in San Diego for the Buffini & Company 2015 Mastermind Summit. Each year I try to attend this spectacular event and each year I walk away with new insights that can be applied to every aspect of business, leadership and life. (As Brian Buffini, founder and chairman of Buffini & Co. said, “Our mission is to impact and improve your business and your life; plain and simple, we are here to help.”) So what, you may ask, was my big takeaway in 2015? I’ll sum it up with two words: All In.In fact, “All In” was the official theme of this year’s Mastermind Summit. It’s also an idea I can wholeheartedly stand behind. Here’s how Brian Buffini explained the concept in a recent article: “When players go ‘all in,’ they push all of their chips to the center of the table, confident in their skill and knowledge of the game that they have a winning hand,” he said. “They’re not playing to play; they’re playing to win!”However, going All In isn’t just about laying it all on the line one time and hoping for the best; All In is a philosophy that must be at work constantly—from new partnerships to new deals—and must permeate every single thing you do. Buffini lists three key areas where it’s essential to be All In:Be All In as a leader. If you ask for productivity, innovation and hard work from your team then shouldn’t you extend the same courtesy to them? Make sure that while your team is giving it their all, you’re also working your hardest to set an example for the kind of commitment you expect of others.Be All In on your goals. Stay steadfast to your goals and follow through. Hold yourself accountable for achieving these goals and assess your progress regularly. This way, you’ll know you’re doing everything in your power to complete the tasks you set out to accomplish.Be All In with your relationships. In real estate—and, I’d argue, in most industries—a client relationship should be an ever-evolving thing, forever growing and strengthening with the passage of time. Too often, agents lose track of their customers after a deal is closed. Remain All In with your relationships by keeping up with your clients well past the papers are signed. Send them birthday cards or make a quick check-in phone call to see how they’re doing. You never know when a past client will refer you to a new one, or when he or she might need your services again.So, what’s the message? Right now, as you read these words, pledge to go All In, just as Brian Buffini describes. It’s a philosophy that is sure to see you winning in business … and life

Aug 24, 2015

#30 Thoughts on Leadership: Be Unstoppable

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in San Diego to attend Tom Ferry’s Success Summit. The theme for Summit 2015 is “unstoppable,” a powerful word with many applications in life and business. In a recent blog post, Tom detailed five easy steps to achieve an unstoppable mindset and I’d like to highlight them now:
  1. Have a powerful name for prospecting. As Tom explains, don’t just call your customer outreach efforts “prospecting time.” Label the act something powerful, inspiring and motivating. Try calling it “wealth creation time” or “making an impact on my community time.” This way, you’re already in a better mindset before you even pick up the phone.

  2. Get your body in motion. If your body is awake, your mind will follow. Jump up and down, go for a brisk walk, dance if you have to … anything that will give you the energy boost you need to feel unstoppable.

  3. Have a mantra. Tom calls these “Affirm-Actions.” What you say to yourself before you contact a client or even before you get out of bed in the morning, will determine your mindset for the rest of the day.

  4. Listen to music. Lao Tzu once famously said, “Music in the soul can be heard by the universe.” Why? Because music has the ability to inherently transform not just your entire self but also the way you interact with others. Listen to your favorite “pump up” song before a big meeting or presentation and you’ll be guaranteed to bring more positivity and enthusiasm to the interaction.

  5. Play the perfect game vs. drama. Take one thing each day, whether it’s a meeting or an important call or a listing you’re itching to win and, whatever happens, declare it perfect. If you score the listing, perfect! If the sellers decide to go with someone else, perfect! No matter the outcome of the situation, tell yourself it’s nothing short of ideal. Why? Because the minute you get caught up in the drama of losing a potential client or sale is the minute you miss out on the 10 other opportunities waiting for you around the corner. Don’t waste time on what could’ve or should’ve been. Tell yourself that whatever happens is the perfect thing for you.

So, what’s the message? As Tom Ferry would say, being unstoppable takes work but it’s completely worth it in the end. Because unstoppable means more than just a temporary inclination; it’s a long-term, successful state of mind.

Aug 14, 2015


By Gino Blefari

This week I was in San Francisco at Inman Connect, an annual real estate technology conference that provides the ideal setting for forward-thinking leaders to discuss the technology transforming our industry today … and tomorrow. As I share highlights from Inman Connect, you’ll notice that each of these memorable experiences has something very specific in common (but more about that later). For now, here are some of my favorite moments from the event:First, it was great to see Brad Inman, publisher and owner of Inman News, as well as many of my colleagues from around the country. Brad truly is a seasoned entrepreneur devoted to progress and innovation and his enthusiasm for thoughtful, tech-driven changes in our industry is inspiring.Second, I was able to attend Agent Connect, an agent-focused series of discussions moderated by a former colleague, Katie Maxwell. Topics during the two-and-a-half-hour session included customer service, effective marketing, online lead conversion tools, new technology and Instagram selling techniques. I was intrigued by the information top-producing agents shared and grateful to meet several of the insightful speakers after the session ended.Lastly, I was honored to receive an invite to CEO Connect, held at the City Club in San Francisco. John F. Kennedy once said “leadership and learning are indispensable to each other,” and spending time with so many intelligent business leaders was both humbling and educational. Conversation among the group was open, honest and forthcoming. I was able to meet some of the preeminent minds leading our industry today, like Keith Krach, CEO of DocuSign.So, what’s the message? (And what’s the common theme?) Well, here I am at a tech conference and what made the most lasting impression on my mind? Not the apps or the programs or the systems but the people. Because in the end, technology is a constantly evolving thing—hard to define and even harder to predict—but the brilliant leaders behind these innovations are without question here to stay.

Aug 07, 2015

#28 Thoughts on Leadership: 'Nooga Strong

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me in Chattanooga, TN, for a visit with Ben, Karen and Byron Kelly and their entire Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Realty Center team. I had a fantastic time speaking to these professionals and left Tennessee invigorated by their energy and enthusiasm.From my brief visit, I can tell you the people in Chattanooga are wonderful and just as charming as the location itself: Chattanooga is the fourth-largest city in Tennessee, a place where countryside meets commerce in green, rolling hilltops and high rises set among the broad bends of the Tennessee River.Recently, Chattanooga has been on the minds of Americans nationwide as we grieve for the four U.S. marines and a sailor whose lives were taken there during a July 16 attack. And while we continue to remember these brave soldiers, along with two more wounded by gunfire, we should also remember−now more than ever−the rich history of Chattanooga and its legacy of reconciliation, recovery and hope.During the Civil War, Chattanooga was widely considered "the gateway to the deep South," a strategic municipality that, once conquered, could lead to the end of a brutal war. But even after the Union army gained a stronghold in Chattanooga, after the last of the gun powder cleared or the Emancipation Proclamation was declared, the heavy toll of the Civil War remained.In the mid-1860s, commemorative campaigns to memorialize Civil War soldiers were well underway and local associations began to form from the likes of ex-Confederate and Union militia who appreciated that no matter which side a soldier represented, the sorrow of mourning and loss was universally shared. In time, this widespread desire to venerate the fallen−and repair a once-broken union−translated into a movement to build national military parks. In 1890, the U.S. Congress' War Department administration approved the creation of the first Civil War national military park in Chattanooga. Here's how the founding veterans envisioned this park:"There will be no place here for the gaudy display of rich equipages and show of wealth; no place for lovers to bide tryst; no place for pleasure−seekers or loungers. The hosts that in the future come to the grand Park will come rather with feelings of awe or reverence. Here their better natures will be aroused; here they will become imbued with grand and lofty ideas; with courage and patriotism; with devotion and duty and love of country." − The Society of the Army of the Cumberland, Twenty−Third Reunion, Chickamaunga ParkSo, what's the message? From tragedy springs hope, along with a renewed spirit of collaboration and compassion. This is evident in the Chattanooga Military Park I had the good fortune of visiting yesterday, as every structure and statue serves to remind us not of what we've lost but of what, through valiant efforts, we've had the opportunity to gain.GINO BLEFARI is CEO of HSF Affiliates LLC. You can follow Gino on Facebook and Twitter.

Jul 30, 2015

#27 Thoughts on Leadership: Generation Now

By Gino Blefari

"Millennials will form tens of millions of new households over the coming decades, and their preference and opportunities will reshape housing demand." − Harvard University State of the Nation’s Housing 2014 reportFrom every angle, millennials are shaping the future of real estate, whether they’re potential first-time buyers embracing homeownership or recent college graduates joining a brokerage, eager to launch real estate careers. For any business leader asking what the future looks like, the answer comes wrapped in a millennial bow. And even if this certainty is understood, how to reach the millennial is still muddled by a haze of social media, mobile marketing and other millennial-focused trends.Almost every affiliate I visit on my travels and every manager I meet wants to talk about this enigmatic generation and how they might impact our industry. But Brian McKenna, branch manager for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Blake, REALTORS® in Clifton Park and Niskayuna, NY, took things one step further: He wrote an entire book.Generation Now by the PhD-educated manager offers a deep dive into recruiting, training and retaining millennials as real estate agents ... and as clients. Through dozens of comprehensive exercises, Brian’s book identifies millennial preferences and explains how to use them to capture the Gen X consumer and agent.Here are some of my favorite passages:On retaining millennial agents: "Do not assume that your millennials have the experience in real estate to know how good they have it with you. They are often new to the business world and processing way too much information for us to assume that they know our value. We want them to be our evangelists and draw more high quality millennial recruits and clients. They will only be successful as evangelists if they believe in our message: that we provide the best setting for their success."On staying connected with your millennial agents: "In this age of social media, staying connected requires only a touch. This could include liking a Facebook post, favoriting a tweet or texting a quick thank you for a comment made at a meeting. As long and it’s sincere, it counts."On a manager’s role in educating millennial agents: "Our millenials need us to be the North Star. We need to be the beacon through all the fog and the chatter and the distraction. We can’t think for our millennials or make their decisions for them. We can establish relationships with them and develop trust and credibility. Our millennials will grow less distracted and less vulnerable with experience and time. While it is often trying, we both win when we provide the consistent guidance and direction they need to remain focused and outcome-driven."So, what’s the message? In the struggle to understand millennials, half the battle is won through education, the other half by listening to their specific needs. Brian’s book teaches us ways this can be done and helps us understand that millennials aren’t just our future, millennials are our now.

Jul 23, 2015

#26 Thoughts on Leadership: Serving For Success

By Gino Blefari

The packed crowd at London’s Wimbledon Stadium erupted into thunderous applause on Saturday as Serena Williams defeated Garbiñe Muguruza to win her sixth Wimbledon title (and 21st major championship). Serena’s game was slightly shaky, her serves at times meandering just outside the line, her groundstrokes less than certain. But Williams is a master at mastering adversity, and delivered enough winners and aces to claim the coveted Venus Rosewater Dish, Wimbledon’s time-honored trophy. Her resilience is admirable, and a quality any inspired business leader must strive to achieve. What else can we glean from Serena’s success? In a recent article, famed speaker and motivator Tony Robbins outlined 4 lessons to be learned from the tennis superstar:1. Develop the mindset of a champion. As Tony described, “A champion studies the strengths and weaknesses of the competition, then develops a game plan that leverages his or her own skills and expertise to bring about the desired outcomes.” In a May conversation with Sports Illustrated, Serena said the game of tennis is “70% mental.” Adopt the mindset of a winner and you’ll find yourself winning.2. Execute, adapt and routinely optimize your results. No matter who you are or what you do, there is always room for improvement, for optimization of your processes and systems that will lead to greater efficiency and success. Serena Williams doesn’t stop practicing after a major win; she continues to build on her strengths and improve on her weaknesses to become even better, stronger and tougher for her next match. Tony explained the worth of this approach: “Understanding and measuring your company’s current processes and results … anticipating the biggest areas of challenge and then mobilizing your team with a clear plan so you can target specific improvements will have the most impact in the long term.”3. Use the post-game analysis to your advantage. This concept is nothing new: You have to have well-established lead measures in order to properly determine the outcome of your goals. (How do you know if you’ve succeeded if you don’t first define success?) In 2012, Serena found a new coach in French tennis mastermind Patrick Mouratoglou. Just as it seemed like her career was winding down, Mouratoglou analyzed her game, identifying the weak spots that needed improvement; within months, she ruled the court once again. Serena famously said, “I can’t become satisfied because if I get satisfied, I’ll be like, ‘Oh, I’ve won Wimbledon. I’ve won the U.S. Open. Now I can relax.’ But now people are really going to be fighting to beat me.” In other words, stay hungry, even in the face of certain victory. After you’ve achieved a pre-determined goal, remain critical and ask yourself: What can I do better next time?4. Foster a favorable culture for high performers. “As a business leader, you know that high- performance organizations foster successful innovators, thanks to the alignment of several vital forces,” wrote Tony. “Constant innovation, efficient business processes, powerful performance systems and team competency and behavior all work in harmony inside the world’s top companies.” To build a team of top-performers, you must first create an environment conducive to their success. No one can achieve in a negative, culturally defunct atmosphere. Champions like Serena—or your own business team—must be coached, encouraged and motivated in order to get the “W.”So, what’s the message? Practice the leadership lessons embraced by Serena Williams and you’ll find yourself just as Serena did last week at Wimbledon, an undeniable winner.

Jul 16, 2015

#25 Thoughts on Leadership: You Can't Win If You Don't Enter

By Gino Blefari

"You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take." – Wayne GretzkyWhen Barbara Wakefield received the call she’d won $50,000 in the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices $50,000 Sweepstakes—held in conjunction with HGTV and Fixer Upper stars Chip and Joanna Gaines—she thought the whole thing was a hoax. "It was too fantastic for words," she told me over the phone today. "I just thought, 'How could this happen? There’s only one winner and how could that winner be me?'"But our nationwide winner definitely is Barbara, a doting grandmother and devoted housewife who lives on a 120-acre farm in Lawrenceburg, KY with her husband of 50 years. She’s also no stranger to sweepstakes, entering drawings and giveaways whenever she can, once winning Cal Ripken, Jr.’s autograph from a Rice Krispies Treats’ contest held years ago."I saw this opportunity and sat at my kitchen table and entered," she said.Barbara’s entry—one of more than 1.5 million—paid off and the winnings couldn’t come at a better time; she was already planning a project to expand her kitchen and fix the structural issues plaguing her 100-year-old home … and its appliances. (Her stove was purchased more than 35 years ago.)"It's absolutely amazing I'll be able to have the chance to finish these renovations," she explained and even over the phone her excitement was infectious; everything she said was filled with honesty, humility and grace. And that’s when I thought: Barbara isn't just a winner; she's a winning person, too.When our marketing team—along with network representatives from Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Parks and Weisberg, Realtors® in Louisville, KY and Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices de Movellan Properties in Lexington, KY—showed up at Barbara’s home, oversized check in hand, they were greeted by Barbara’s country charm even before she opened her door. As they walked up the pathway toward her porch, they noticed she had already set out a pitcher of lemonade and a plate of cookies for her out-of-town guests."That's just country living," she explained.So, what's the message? Barbara's story isn’t just an incredible tale about good fortune that came to one person in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky; it's also a narrative about someone who had the belief that the seemingly impossible could come true. Because, to quote our $50,000 Sweepstakes winner Barbara Wakefield: "You can't win if you don't enter!"

Jul 09, 2015

#24 Thoughts on Leadership: A Message for the Fourth

By Gino Blefari

This week I have the 4th of July on my mind; a holiday always spent grilling with my family and watching fireworks light up the summer sky. It’s my favorite time of year, with a rich history as compelling as the patriotic celebration itself.On July 4, 1776, many of the 13 colonies had been in existence more than 150 years and a strong, middle-class economy was developing from the likes of farmers, artisans, lawyers and tradesmen. In 1776, people traveled by horse-drawn carriages; food was cooked over wood-burning fires. The American Revolution was already underway (it began April 1775) and the hunger for independence was burning in the hearts and minds of freedom-seeking colonists. Our independence had been declared on July 2 and the Declaration of Independence had been written by Thomas Jefferson almost a month before (and wouldn’t be signed until a month later on August 2, 1776).Then, you may ask, what are we really commemorating on July 4 if not the start of the Revolution or the drafting of the document that would become the very foundation of our United States?Here’s what actually happened on July 4: The Continental Congress approved the wording of the Declaration of Independence.The draft had been submitted several days prior and on July 4, the Continental Congress collectively gave their consent that the document was complete. When printed copies of the Declaration of Independence were later circulated throughout a brand-new America, the date on each copy read July 4.So, what’s the message? On July 4 we’re celebrating the birth of our great country, and all the independence and liberty that milestone entails. Yet, on another level, we’re also celebrating a brilliant team—our Founding Fathers—whose collective wisdom and accord brought about widespread, lasting change. It’s no small feat and one we should pay homage to as we watch fireworks with our families on Saturday night, recalling that it was exactly 239 years ago that our Founding Fathers agreed upon the self-evident truths that would ultimately set us free.

Jul 02, 2015

#23 Thoughts on Leadership: Hawaiian Inspiration

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in the Hawaiian Islands for business meetings and my annual family vacation. The islands are nothing short of spectacular: pristine beaches, unspoiled landscape and a welcoming aloha spirit. This spirit is also evident in the history and local legends of Hawaii, like Duke Kahanamoku, whose life and achievements make for an incredible story I’d like to share with you now.A gold-medal-winning Olympic swimmer and champion surfer, Kahanamoku once famously said, “The best surfer out there is the one having the most fun.” And whether commanding the waves of the Pacific or a team of real estate agents, Kahanamoku is right. Always remember why you chose to lead, what you enjoy so much about your business and why you want to inspire your team to succeed. Have fun. If you’re having fun, others will, too.We can also take a lesson from Kahanamoku’s humble nature. When he became a household name in Hawaii, many people thought he was royalty, (his name, after all, was Duke). However, he was the first to remind his fans that he was one of them, a citizen of Hawaii and a man who worked hard for every award and accolade he received.When Duke passed in 1968 at the age of 77, he left a lasting legacy behind him. Today, restaurants and statues bear his likeness and name, as symbols of a local hero who prospered through a powerful combination of talent, diligence and perseverance.So, here's the message: Duke Kahanamoku may have been best known for his aquatic accomplishments but beyond the champion athlete, he's a man defined by selflessness, strength of character, kindness of spirit, and humility, all qualities every great leader should possess.

June 25, 2015

#22 Thoughts on Leadership: The Boys in the Boat

By Gino Blefari

This week my thoughts aren’t so much about my travels as they are about what happened while I was away. Nearly two months ago, on a rare rainy day in Southern California, I received a call from HSF Affiliates CFO Brian Peterson, (who also happens to be my neighbor), letting me know he had picked up a package at my door so it wouldn’t get wet.“Thanks, Brian,” I said over the phone. “That’s interesting though because I didn’t order anything to my SoCal residence but it’s probably a book.”In fact, it was a book, a very good book I’d like to discuss with you today.The narrative that arrived at my door that rainy day was The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown, sent to me by Pete Slaugh, managing director at Lancaster, PA-based Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices HomeSale Realty. And if you haven’t yet read The Boys in the Boat yet, this feel-good story about superstar rowers on a quest to achieve Olympic victory is not only incredibly inspirational but also applicable to every industry and profession. Here are a few key passages I found particularly insightful …On the attainment of an elusive rowing phenomenon called swing: “There is a thing that sometimes happens in rowing that is hard to achieve and hard to define. Many crews, even winning crews, never really find it. Others find it but can’t sustain it. It’s called ‘swing.’ It only happens when all eight oarsmen are rowing in such perfect unison that not a single action by any one is out of synch with those of all the others. It’s not just that the oars enter and leave the water at precisely the same instant. Sixteen arms must begin to pull, sixteen knees must begin to fold and unfold, eight bodies must begin to slide forward and backward, eight backs must bend and straighten all at once. Each minute action – each subtle turning of wrists – must be mirrored exactly by each oarsman, from one end of the boat to the other. Only then will the boat continue to run, unchecked, fluidly and gracefully between pulls of the oars. Only then will it feel as if the boat is a part of each of them, moving as if on its own. Only then does pain entirely give way to exultation. Rowing then becomes a kind of perfect language. Poetry, that’s what a good swing feels like.”On the virtues of diversity: “Crew races are not won by clones. They are won by crews, and great crews are carefully balanced bends of both physical abilities and personality types … And capitalizing on diversity is perhaps even more important when it comes to the characters of oarsmen. A crew composed entirely of eight amped-up overly aggressive oarsmen will often degenerate into a dysfunctional brawl or exhaust itself in the first leg of the long race. Similarly, a boatload of quiet but strong introverts may never find the common core of fiery resolve that causes the boat to explode past its competitors when all seems lost. Good crews are good blends of personalities; someone to lead the charge, someone to hold something in reserve; someone to pick a fight, someone to make peace; someone to think things through, someone to charge ahead without thinking. Somehow all this must mesh. That’s the steepest challenge.”So, here’s the message: Think about us at HSF Affiliates. Look at how different we are; look at how different I am from you, reading this right now, or how different you are from the person you work next to every day. There’s a fascinating dichotomy that plays out between the differences we innately possess and the synchrony we aspire to achieve, and when taken together, it all works to help us to find our swing.

June 19, 2015

#21 Thoughts on Leadership: Inspiration abounds in Washington, D.C.

By Gino Blefari

My travels this week took me to Washington, D.C. to help honor Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices’ top brokerages and hear impressive speakers gathered to provide brokers with new perspectives on real estate, politics, media, business practices and more. These speakers are leaders in their own right, including cyber security expert Joel Brenner, ABC News pollster Gary Langer, CNN senior political analyst Gloria Borger, and N.A.R. representatives Lawrence Yun, Bill Gilmartin and Joe Ventrone. I was also honored to meet Real Living At Home leaders Jason Sherman, Justin Levitch and their terrific agents at their Washington, D.C. office.Part of my visit to the nation’s capital included a moonlight tour of monuments in the National Mall. Each monument is stunning, yet my favorite is the Lincoln Memorial at the western end of the Mall.As you ascend the steps of the Lincoln Memorial its majesty and size become instantly apparent. The massive, marble statue of Abraham Lincoln faces east, with the seated President maintaining a watching eye over the National Mall’s Reflecting Pool, Washington Monument and, beyond, the Capitol Building. The view from inside the monument is equally inspiring. Its north wall displays an inscription of Lincoln's second inaugural speech, while the south is inscribed with the complete Gettysburg Address. History and greatness surround.This inscription, located behind the statue, aptly describes the experience …“IN THIS TEMPLEAS IN THE HEARTS OF THE PEOPLEFOR WHOM HE SAVED THE UNIONTHE MEMORY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLNIS ENSHRINED FOREVER.”Without President Lincoln our great country likely would be much different today. Lincoln artfully managed a fractured political landscape, adversaries, skeptics and members of his own cabinet and military to guide the country through perhaps its darkest times on record. His leadership abilities –wonderfully memorialized in Donald T. Phillips book Lincoln on Leadership: Executive Strategies for Tough Times – remain a blueprint for effective leadership today.Lincoln understood that sound leadership is often achieved through subtle influence and face-to-face communication. He preferred to leave the “ivory tower” and interact directly with people. This practice, named MBWA (Managing by Wandering Around) more than a century later by management gurus Tom Peters and Robert Waterman, is a staple component of modern leadership thinking.Of course, Lincoln treated people with courtesy and respect, and through encouragement and suggestion moved them to higher achievement and greater understanding. He was honest, fair, civil and tolerant. Lincoln was also firm, composed, decisive and a master public speaker, and used these qualities to establish purpose in and win the hearts and minds of his constituents.So what’s the message? That’s an easy one! The foundation for sound leadership must always account for the human condition and include essential tenets of respect, empowerment, trust and purpose. One needn’t necessarily look to the latest management book, seminar or conference for fresh leadership concepts. Abraham Lincoln displayed many of them more than a century ago and, in doing so, forged the model for decent, effective and timeless human interaction.

June 11, 2015

#20 Thoughts on Leadership: It’s the same difference

By Gino Blefari

This week, I found myself in San Francisco for a media interview via skype with Ilyce Glink, host of Big Money Real Estate, a weekly show on the Whatever it Takes Network. Episodes focus on a variety of topics including: real estate, mortgage issues, real estate investing, personal finance and consumer advice. However, I was video chatting with Ilyce about the results from the Q1 Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Homeowner Sentiment Survey, which assessed people’s aspirations and sentiments surrounding homeownership.So, my interview began and I was asked this question: When compared to other generations, how do millennials differ in their home buying preferences? How are they starting to resemble previous generations?I was just about to reply with the distinguishing home-buying preferences of each generation when I had a thought: Maybe the differences we see separating Baby Boomers from Gen Xers from millennials are not as distinctive as they appear.What do I mean? Well, our survey showed that disparate generations of home buyers approach the buying process differently. Millennials are “thinking in the now” and are more likely to prioritize “the ease of a purchase decision” when it comes to buying a home. By comparison, Boomers and Gen Xers embrace homeownership as a “smart, long-term investment.” Our study also found Millennials place a higher value on purchasing a home that they’ll be proud to show their friends and family, as well as living in a community with a great school district for their children.On the surface, it seems like these characteristics clearly delineate Millennial preferences from those of older generations. But what concerns about homeownership did Boomers have when they were in their 20s and 30s? Didn’t they too care about owning a home that would make their parents and friends proud? Didn’t they also focus on the quality of the school district in a given community in order to ensure their young kids received a great education? Simply, yes.Ah, so the differences we see in each generation may not be so different after all.So, here’s the message: The same concerns, fears and preferences that we associate with today’s enigmatic millennial generation were also relevant for Boomers years ago. The normal rhythms of life happen regardless of how many iWatches are revealed or how many social media platforms emerge. People will always need a place to live. People will always want to start families. And those desires aren’t going away anytime soon. Because the more things change, the more they stay the same.

June 04, 2015

#19 Thoughts on Leadership: A Message for Memorial Day

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels took me to the Great State of Texas for a visit with the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices PenFed Realty Texas team in Dallas and the HSF Affiliates LLC IT group in Houston. Usually, this would be the time during “Thoughts on Leadership” when I would describe what happened over the course of the past few days. But for this post, in honor of the upcoming Memorial Day holiday and its spirit of remembrance and reverence, I want to tell a tale that isn’t my own.I recently read “Talk like TED” by Carmine Gallo, all about ways to deliver a more impactful speech. The book inspired me to watch some of the best from TED, an organization that brings together the world’s most thought-provoking minds to present on any number of subjects from the emotions of chimpanzees to the poor design of city flags. Last year, TED featured Wes Moore, who spoke about “How to Talk to Veterans about the War.”Moore was a former U.S. Army captain and paratrooper, a valiant leader who admitted with surprising candor at the beginning of his speech, “I didn’t go to the army because I wanted to go to war.” Moore had been a disciplinary problem for his mother from an early age and so, in an effort to rehabilitate her son, she sent him off to military school, thinking that might do the trick.And it did. It was at military school that Moore realized he was “part of something bigger, part of team.” Here he came to learn “leadership wasn’t just a punch line but an actual core part of the experience.”However, after school, while Moore’s military friends were being sent to places “people couldn’t point out on a map,” Moore went overseas to study at Oxford University. As he learned about history from textbooks, his former comrades were making history miles from his classroom. This didn’t sit well with the military-trained student.After earning a Master of Letters in International Relations from Oxford, Moore served in Afghanistan. When he returned home after his tour of duty, he faced a harsh new reality. As he mentions in his talk, Moore was most surprised about those who simply told him “thank you for your service.” The phrase, as he explains, often rings hollow for soldiers wanting more than gratitude. “For so many people as they come back home, the war keeps playing out in their mind and memories,” Moore explains. “It’s not easy to fall back into a sense of normality because the whole normal has changed.”So, what’s the message? Instead of thankfulness, Moore says veterans just want to be heard. “Thank you for your service needs to be more than just a quote break,” he says. Like Moore, many returning veterans have a story to tell and want an audience who will listen. And for those soldiers who lost their lives in battle, on this Memorial Day, let’s not only thank these brave fighters for their service but also remember that their lives now represent stories left untold.

May 21, 2015

#18 Thoughts on Leadership: The Power in Vulnerability

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels took me from San Francisco to Boulder to Washington, D.C. to Southern California but I’d like to talk a little more about my experience in Denver almost two weeks ago. I was there attending REAL Trend’s Gathering of Eagles, an exclusive opportunity to mingle with our industry’s most innovative minds, absorbing their managerial wisdom and insight. This year, Patrick Lencioni, founder and president of The Table Group, was keynote speaker at the event and delivered an impactful speech on leadership and what it takes to succeed.In a word: vulnerability. Defined by Merriam- Webster as “the capacity to be physically or emotionally wounded,” it’s the one concept often overlooked in a society focused on resiliency and strength. However, vulnerability and mental fortitude are not mutually exclusive. In fact, according to Lencioni, vulnerability isn’t just a nice compliment to strength; it’s the very thing that can make us stronger, wiser and more connected to our clients.How? He explained …

We can’t all be perfect leaders. We can’t all be superheroes on a singular quest to conquer our market or our industry then live in some utopian world where every customer becomes our client, every transaction runs smoothly and every deal goes through. Instead, we can only be the most genuine version of who we are at this very moment. Are we hungry? Tired? (Vince Lombardi said “fatigue makes cowards of us all.”) Are we anxious? Annoyed? Hopefully not but maybe. And as Lencioni described, that’s perfectly OK.

Still, vulnerability is not to be confused with incompetence. In his latest book, Lencioni makes this distinction: “If you come to your clients every day admitting that you’ve made yet another mistake or that you don’t know how to do yet another required element of your job, that would be a serious problem,” he wrote. “But it would not be an issue of vulnerability, but rather of competence; the problem would not lie in admitting of so many weaknesses, but in the having of them!”So, what’s the message? Clients have a keen sixth sense for vulnerability; they can smell it before the beads of sweat even hit our foreheads. But they also expect vulnerability because by putting their financial assets or aspirations in our hands, they’ve made themselves vulnerable, too. It’s a symbiotic business relationship, a cyclical give-and-take wheel of vulnerability that helps them relate to us and helps us, through our willingness to be vulnerable, gain their respect and trust.

 May 13, 2015

#17 Thoughts on Leadership: The Coincidence of Connection

By Gino Blefari

This week, my travels took me from Denver to Omaha to St. Louis but our story begins west of the Gateway City, in Irvine, CA at the HSF Affiliates headquarters …

Each morning in Irvine, I try to follow the same routine: I wake before sunrise and walk to the hotel coffee shop near our offices for some quiet, meditative moments to prepare for the day ahead.

Three weeks ago, I was in the midst of ordering my morning coffee when the elevator doors of the hotel slid open to unexpectedly reveal my childhood friend, Jeff Pederson. I hadn’t seen Jeff in thirty five years, not since he was in high school and I was working at the Cherry Chase Golf Course in Sunnyvale, CA; his family had a membership there and Jeff would play the course almost every day. Nearly four decades later, I recognized Jeff immediately. It’s funny how time can pass, paths can diverge and you still never forget a familiar face.

We exchanged greetings, recounted a few memories from our golf course days and fell easily into the kind of nostalgic, “remember when” conversation only two longtime friends can share. Through Facebook, I knew Jeff headed up a furniture company in Washington, D.C., and it seemed he was doing well. Then, we said our goodbyes and I went on with my day, happy to have reconnected with an old pal.

And that might’ve been where this tale ends, if not for a certain coincidence that occurred at the 50th Annual Berkshire Hathaway Shareholders Meeting on May 2. I was in Omaha to represent our HSF Affiliates brands and connect with the hundreds of enthusiastic shareholders who stopped by the booth of our parent company, Berkshire Hathaway Energy.

Now, some background: Every year during the Shareholders Meeting, a video about the world-renowned organization is shown to the 40,000+ attendees. In classic Berkshire Hathaway fashion, the video is humorous yet intelligently crafted, and always ends with a tribute to the CEOs of the Berkshire Hathaway brands—NetJets, Heinz, Benjamin Moore, Justin’s Boots, to name a few.

OK, back to Omaha: So, here I am, standing among the throng of eager Berkshire Hathaway fans, watching the names of America’s preeminent business leaders cascade across the screen and whose smiling face do I see?

Jeff Pederson.

At once, everything made sense. That “furniture company in Washington, D.C.” was actually Cort Furniture, a Berkshire Hathaway affiliate and a premier office and home furniture operation of which Jeff serves as president and CEO.

So, here’s the message: There’s tremendous value in connection. Running into Jeff at the coffee shop and then seeing him again at the Shareholders Meeting brought this concept into illuminating focus for me. (After the video aired, Jeff and I met up in the exhibition hall and joked about it being such a small world.) But that’s just how connection works; in an instant, someone you haven’t spoken to since youth might make a sudden reappearance in your life with one slide of the elevator doors.

 May 7, 2015


#16 Thoughts on Leadership: A Lesson in Elevation

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels took me from sea to shining sea … or pretty close. I started out in Chicago as a panelist at AREAA’s 2015 Global & Luxury Summit then drove toward the outskirts of The Windy City to visit the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Starck Real Estate team. From there, it was off to Lancaster, PA to spend time with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Homesale Realty and finally, my week ended among the snowcapped mountains of Vail, CO and the agents, managers and staff at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Colorado Properties.

If you’re counting, that’s a gain of almost 11,000 feet in elevation. Here are my calculations: Chicago sits 576 feet above sea level, Lancaster is positioned at a humble 368 feet higher than the sea and then Vail soars to 8,150 feet beyond sea level, though the car ride from Denver to Vail takes you to peaks just above 11,100 feet. But these are just numbers … what more can be said about the substance of my trip?

Famed novelist Marcel Proust once wrote, “The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes,”and this journey certainly gave me a fresh perspective. I realized, as I made my way from one city to the next, that the key to effective leadership is the very thing I was experiencing … elevation. Great leaders elevate those around them, reflecting their greatness upon all those for whom their insights are created and put forth.

Let me explain: Each company I visited had a very particular, defining and unique composition, from the size of the company, to its marketplace to its company mission but there was one common thread uniting them all: solid leaders. These individuals—Andy Starck at Starck Real Estate; Doug Rebert, Rod Messick, Pete Slaugh and the leadership team at HomeSale Realty; Michael Slevin at Colorado Properties—are just fantastic human beings. Every single one of them embodies the true paradigm of what a leader should be: someone determined to help people improve and grow.

So, what’s the message? The best kind of leaders are those who understand the concept of elevation, of taking a talented, hard-working team and helping them soar to new heights.


April 29, 2015


#15 Thoughts on Leadership: Earth Day Reflections

By Gino Blefari

A casual suggestion, a way to spark pointed discussion and quiet contemplation … that’s how Earth Day began on April 22, 1970. After a devastating 1969 oil spill off the once-pristine coast of Santa Barbara, Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson, a longtime environmentalist, realized one day each year must be set aside for citizens of the world to unite and quite literally stop to smell the roses. Yesterday, for the 45th time, people around the globe did just that, celebrating the beauty of our Earth in an international observance themed, “It’s Our Time to Lead.”

And indeed, it is. I was recently reading a letter from Berkshire Hathaway Energy CEO Greg Abel and the gist of his poignant message was this: The Earth isn’t just our home, it’s also our responsibility. His sentiment couldn’t be truer, or form a more important imperative that we, as leaders, must tackle in order to ensure a bright future for generations to come.

The good news is, we already have the right forward-thinking mindset to address the issues swirling around Earth Day discourse; it’s written somewhere in a leader’s unwritten code that we must constantly have one eye on the present and one eye fixed toward tomorrow.

But how does all this fit into our everyday routine? In some ways, we might respond by starting a recycling program in our office or digitizing processes that were once completed on paper. In other ways, this might mean not just a healthier Earth but also a healthier you. It might happen by taking a walk each morning before work or giving yourself a five-minute break during the day to simply stretch your legs.

So, here’s the message: However you commemorated Earth Day, remember today that the holiday isn’t over once April 22 has come and gone. We should take every day to celebrate the world—imagining a time of clear, unpolluted skies and glittering, oil-less seas—and work to be responsible leaders of our land.


April 22, 2015

#14 Thoughts on Leadership: The Language of Leaders

By Gino Blefari

For the past few years, I’ve shared my experiences and research on the importance of leadership. Here’s one thing I’ve learned during this ongoing project: As leaders, we lead by how we act but we also lead by what we say. Our words convey the “why” behind all that we do.

An iconic example can be found in the words Winston Churchill selected to rally Great Britain during World War II:

"We shall defend our Island, whatever the cost shall be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields, and in the streets. We shall fight in the hills....we shall never quit."

Now to be sure, I wouldn't expect such soaring rhetoric to be used during a listing presentation, at a recruiting interview or while conducting an office meeting but clearly we can all improve on how impactful our words can be in our everyday, professional lives.

And speaking of language ... whether you are leading or inspiring first-time buyers, empty nesters, anxious home sellers, your associates, real estate teams or management teams ... the words you choose will determine whether others will follow your "lead."

For this reason, I enthusiastically suggest that every manager and every agent look to further develop their communication skills so they’ll be better equipped at 'Creating Real Estate Connections,' a slogan that also happens to be the notable title of former Realtor.com CEO Allan Dalton’s insightful book.

I just finished reading 'Creating Real Estate Connections,' and as someone who has read literally hundreds of real estate and business books, this publication stands alone in challenging "industry clichés" and offering alternative advice for communicating with consumers and clients.

The book is co-authored by Allan Dalton –named by the National Association of REALTORS® as one of the 25 most influential thought leaders in the industry—and Gee Dunsten, the former President of CRS. Along with 20 present-day mega-producers, Dalton and Dunsten share their perspectives about what to do and, just as importantly, what to say in order to create real estate connections within local communities. My own early real estate sales career was positively impacted by Allan Dalton’s powerful language from his 1990s cassette-tape series. I diligently listened to his advice and used his language with sellers and buyers … and still encourage agents to do the same today.

This book represents the ultimate balance between the so-called “high tech” and “high touch” communication techniques and is amazingly creative and progressive.

After reading the book, here are the four premises that I found most powerful:

  1. Language determines success. Every cent of our income is influenced by the language we select and many of us have fallen into the trap of imitating counterproductive industry phrases, clichés from decades past. We must ensure that our communication is a match for what is expected from our forward-thinking brand promise.
  2. Find the common, uniting threads. While everyone talks about the importance of niche or segmented marketing, this book argues that we need to devote more attention to "desegmenting" market. We must identify commonality across wider groups of consumers and most specifically, among local homeowners.
  3. Communication is essential for the listing / marketing side of a transaction. While the first point of contact ‎on the buyer side has been delegated to major listing portals, there is no need for this to happen on the "listing/marketing side" of the transaction. To ensure we remain that first point of contact on the home seller side, we must employ better strategies and enhanced communication skills, elevating our relevance in order to create meaningful real estate connections with local residents.
  4. Differentiation doesn’t equal distinction. While we all constantly hear about the need to differentiate, we overlook the importance of being truly distinctive and misunderstand the true difference between the two concepts.

So, what’s the message? This time, it’s more of a mission: I respectfully challenge our entire industry to carefully examine the way we communicate our immense value. Too often, consumers do not fully grasp the extensive benefit we provide and it must therefore be our chief objective to more skillfully convey exactly what we do. Through better communication like the kind championed by Dalton, Dunsten and others, we’ll help generations of real estate agents find greater success now and well into the future.


April 16, 2015

#13 Thoughts on Leadership: The Power of Knowledge

By Gino Blefari

Knowledge is an important component of leadership. If we’re diligent about it, knowledge is an ever-changing, evolving thing, allowing us to continually improve, progress and grow.

Recently, I was in Washington, D.C. at the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals® (NAHREP) White House Briefing. The meeting proved an exciting opportunity to learn about the latest trends affecting the Hispanic community and how Latino preferences and buying power will shape—and reshape—the landscape of our national real estate market.  NAHREP®, cofounded by Gary Acosta and Ernie Reyes, is a passionate organization made from dedicated professionals across the country, proud champions of homeownership within the Hispanic Community and The Voice For Hispanic Real Estate®. I’m honored to serve on the NAHREP® Corporate Board of Governors and help advance this cause.

I also was in Washington to celebrate Teresa Palacios Smith of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Georgia Properties, recently installed as the new 2015 National President of NAHREP®. Listening to Teresa speak from the stage of a luxurious ballroom at the Fairmont Hotel, I was proud to have such an eloquent voice and accomplished businesswoman lead the charge for Hispanic real estate professionals nationwide.

My sentiments were echoed by NAHREP® CEO, Gary Acosta. “NAHREP® is delighted to have Teresa Palacios Smith as our 2015 National President,” he said. “We both firmly believe real estate companies that make the effort to understand the cultural nuances and develop viable strategies to reach and service Hispanic consumers will reap huge rewards.”

Added Teresa: “I’m so grateful to be part of the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices family and lead one of the most influential minority trade organizations in this country,” she told me. “Latinos are proud members of American society with much to contribute in making the U.S. a competitive and successful country. With the purchasing power of Latinos at $1.5 trillion and projections for 2020 estimating that purchasing power to grow to $2 trillion, right now is an exciting time for our community!”

Indeed, Teresa’s words couldn’t be truer. By most standards, the Hispanic community is acknowledged as the key driver for growth in the overall housing sector. In fact, NAHREP® just released its 2014 State of the Hispanic Homeownership Report, and for those yet to digest it, these are some key takeaways I found particularly interesting:

  • From 2000 to 2014, Hispanics accounted for 50 percent of the net growth of overall households in the country.
  • Since 1970, the Hispanic population has grown 592 percent. By comparison, the U.S. population overall has grown 56 percent over the same period.
  • Between 2000 and 2010 alone, Hispanics made up more than half of U.S. population growth.
  • Hispanics hold the largest share of household growth for any racial or ethnic population group in the country and are expected to account for seven million of the nation’s 17 million new households between 2010 and 2015.
  • Of those who did make home purchases in 2014, Millennials represented the largest group with 32% of all buyers. Hispanics account for more than one in five Millennials.
  • Twenty nine percent of Hispanics earn $50K-$100K annually and contribute $500 billion in spending power. Moreover, their impact is projected to reach $680 billion in 2016.
So, here’s the message: The more we can learn about perspectives and communities other than our own—like the dynamic and powerful Hispanic community—the better leaders we’ll become, growing through understanding, compassion and the knowledge to help us succeed.


April 9, 2015

#12 Thoughts on Leadership: Westward Bound

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels took me to the majestic state of Montana, to Big Sky Country, to the heart of Lewis and Clark’s westward expedition. I began my trip in Bozeman speaking with the outstanding agents, managers and staff at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Montana Properties then traveled along Interstate 90 toward Missoula for another presentation with the Montana Properties team.For those who have never driven on I-90, it’s a highway famous for its scenic surroundings, a modern-day trail through America’s unspoiled territory, where “Home on the Range” comes to life in meandering rivers, roaming antelope, dense forests and snowcapped mountains. I was lucky enough to drive with Montana Properties Broker/Owners Mike Basile and Dan Ermatinger, who had much to say about the highway and Montana’s awe-inspiring landscape.I listened as Mike told the history of the area—stories of old mining towns and Lewis and Clark’s adventures along the Missouri river—as we continued on our own journey west. Then Dan spoke about first arriving in Montana as an 18-year-old college student at the University of Montana in Missoula, eager to make his mark on the world, ready to pursue his dreams in this sprawling land of opportunity.And there on I-90, a turquoise Montana sky stretched before us, hearing Dan describe his early years in business and Mike talk tales of the past, I thought about how difficult but rewarding it can be to traverse uncharted frontiers, eager to blaze a new path.As leaders, this is often our defining struggle: How do we innovate while trekking (somewhat) fearlessly into the unknown? I can only imagine how Lewis and Clark felt, crossing the Continental Divide as it snakes across Montana, navigating the very spine of the Rocky Mountains without a road or map to guide them …

”… the river being very high, the sandbars were so rolling and numerous, and the current so strong, that we were unable to stem it even with the oars added to our sails; this obliged us to go nearer the banks, which were falling in, so that we could not make, though the boat was occasionally towed, more than fourteen miles.” – William Clark, June 15, 1804So, what’s the message? There’s a certain inherent fear in tackling any new endeavor, whether it be starting a new job, meeting a new client, or crossing dangerous rivers and traveling across undiscovered land. But true growth never comes easy and the only way to find it is by journeying onward—no matter how uncomfortable—while always keeping your eyes on the road ahead.


April 2, 2015


#11 Thoughts on Leadership: The Importance of Quality Service

By Gino Blefari

This week, while working from home in Northern California, (average temperature, 85 degrees) I was reviewing Real Living’s Premier Service® 2014 National Customer Satisfaction Results, and I’m happy to announce that for a seventh consecutive year, our Real Living agents scored a 96% customer satisfaction rating, significantly exceeding the industry average. This number speaks to the strength of Real Living’s customer service culture and its hard-working brokers and agents but it also gets to the heart of an issue that must always be top-of-mind for all leaders across any industry: service.

We can discuss service from every angle possible; in fact, I could probably dedicate “Thoughts on Leadership” to the topic for the rest of the year and still have more to say about service in 2016. Today, I want us to take a look at service from the perspective of the challenges we face as leaders and how it can be used as a remedy in even the most difficult situations.

We’ve all been there: We’ve all received that phone call or email from a less than happy client. Often when adversity strikes, our first instinct is to react with similar passion, defending our actions or practices. However, when the going gets tough, the tough need to maintain their composure and remember the high standard of service they must provide.

In a recent blog post by the Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center, the organization stresses adopting a “cooperative attitude” and choosing “empathy over orders.” For this service-first company, compassion is the best combatant to controversy.  And I couldn’t agree more.

So, what’s the message? The next time you run into a tricky situation in your business—and I promise, we all will—think about the importance of quality service and then respond with poise, calm and efficiency because that’s what every customer deserves.


March 19, 2015


#10 Thoughts on Leadership: In the Heart of the Berkshires

By Gino Blefari

“Now the first of December was covered with snow, and so was the turnpike from Stockton to Boston. The Berkshires seemed dream-like on account of that frosting, with ten miles behind me and ten thousand more to go.” – James Taylor, Sweet Baby James, 1970Last week, my travels took me to the magnificent Aqua Turf Club in Plantsville, Connecticut to attend the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties Awards and Service celebration hosted by president and CEO Candace Adams and her fantastic team of agents, managers and staff. After years of living in California, enjoying the Golden State’s ever-present palm trees and perpetual sunshine, I had a distinct sense of nostalgia spending time in the decidedly chillier Northeast. Something about being back among the charm of a snowy New England town made this visit feel like a trip home.It makes perfect sense; I was actually born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts in the heart of the Berkshires and a 60-mile stone’s throw away from Plantsville. (According to Google Maps, Plantsville is exactly 101 miles from my birthplace and the house where I spent the first three years of my life.) My heritage is—and always will be—in Pittsfield; both my grandmothers worked at coat factories in Pittsfield and much of my family still lives there today. And, in a twist of historical fate, Pittsfield is not more than 15 miles from Adams, Massachusetts, where the Berkshire Cotton Manufacturing Company was established in 1889. In 1955, this textile company—then called Berkshire Fine Spinning Associates—merged with Hathaway Manufacturing Co. to form an organization called Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Sound familiar?   But back to our thoughts on leadership: Life charges forward at speeds that are sometimes difficult to keep pace with, and as leaders, it’s important to look back and remember where we came from in order to realize where it is we want to go. For me, this meant taking a minute to reflect on my roots, to think about my childhood growing up in Pittsfield and to put all the milestones—and hurdles—of my career in perspective so I could better understand how each one brought me to this very moment in Plantsville, standing not far from where it all began.Reflection also can be a tool to combat the challenges faced by leaders. In a 2007 article for the Harvard Business Review, Robert Kaplan, former vice chairman of the Goldman Sachs Group, summed up this concept nicely: “It’s hard to see [a solution to your problem] when you’re in the midst of it,” he wrote. “I have learned that a key characteristic of highly successful leaders is not that they figure out how to always stay on course, but that they develop techniques to help them recognize a deteriorating situation and get back on track as quickly as possible. In my experience, the best way to do that is to step back regularly … and honestly ask yourself some questions about how you’re doing and what you may need to do differently.”So, what’s the message?In a world focused on the future, on implementing the latest technology or on discovering the newest gadget, we should always remember that progress is a byproduct of history and experience. If we take time to heed lessons learned from the past—both good and bad—we’ll be fully equipped to build a better, wiser future. And that’s exactly what we’ll do together as I travel on this journey from the Berkshires to the coast of California and back again.


March 12, 2015



#09 Thoughts on Leadership: The Importance of Friends 

By Gino Blefari

One of the stops on my travels this week was to Indianapolis where I met with the fine agents and managers at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Indiana Realty and spend time with Kevin Kirkpatrick, CEO; and John Dick, who recently retired as co-owner and president. I’ve known John and Kevin for about 14 years and they’re more than my colleagues, they’re my friends.

Friendship is sometimes overlooked in business but it’s one of the most important assets in every company, office … and even sports team that has ever found lasting success. I’ve always said that I love what I do largely because of who I get to do it with. I get to work with my best friends in the world

This idea played out in the fall, when baseball fans around the country shed a collective tear as they said goodbye to then-retiring star shortstop Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees. It wasn’t just extraordinary athleticism that drew people to this enigmatic sports figure, or made an entire nation sad to see him go. It was also his ability to be the consummate teammate: supportive, loyal and selfless. Derek Jeter managed to achieve the perfect balance between legendary leader and every baseball fan’s friend.

Forever humble, Jeter once attributed this quality to those around him: “Surround yourself with good people,” he said. “People who are going to be honest with you and look out for your best interest.”

The Captain gets to the heart of a very important leadership lesson; success doesn’t happen alone. It takes a talented team to build a business and then it takes cohesiveness and collaboration to make that business thrive. In other words, it’s not enough to put together a group of the greatest people you know and expect great things. There’s a component that must be present in order to make it all work: friendship.

And often, friendship can prove an even more powerful motivator than ability. The reason Buster Olney, senior writer at ESPN, declared the 1998 New York Yankees “the best team of all time” wasn’t because they were the most talented team that year. It was because the 1998 Yankees had developed an unbreakable morale; they were all close friends. These strong bonds carried them through every tough game won at the bottom of the ninth and every hit made when there were two strikes in the count, ultimately turning the Bronx Bombers into World Series champions.

So, what’s the message? There’s a direct correlation between friendship and performance. If you want to build a business set to last, make sure you do it surrounded by hard-working individuals you’re proud to call your friends.


March 5, 2015



#08 Thoughts on Leadership: Prepare for Success

By Gino Blefari

“Achievement is talent plus preparation.” – Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers: The Story of Success

This week, my travels took me to Minneapolis, Dallas and St. Louis. I thoroughly enjoyed visiting all three cities but for today’s post, I want to focus on Dallas and what exactly brought me to the Lone Star State. As many of you know, the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices  Sales Convention is fast approaching and during the event, I’ll have a chance to address a crowd of agents and affiliates from the stage at the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas, explaining my vision for our company and our future.

While in Dallas, I stood in front of a green screen rehearsing my presentation, making changes and deciding how best to convey my thoughts … and even after leaving rehearsals, the process of preparation is far from over.

Why? Because the only way to find real success is to prepare for it. Success isn’t instantaneous and it isn’t easy. True success is about sitting down and practicing your craft until you’ve mastered it, just as a concert violinist would go over a concerto hundreds of times before performing it to a crowd or a neurosurgeon would spend years observing and researching before stepping foot inside an operating room. Do you know how many shows the Beatles played in little clubs in Liverpool before becoming an international music sensation?

This concept of preparation is nothing new. In fact, it’s been around forever, although I think it was best explained in Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers: The Story of Success. As the title suggests, the text delves into the concept of outliers or people “who do things out of the ordinary.” In less than 300 pages, Gladwell debunks the myth that success is some illusory concept, achieved only by the few who seem to know about some secret door behind which it can be found.

Success, as Gladwell defines it, is the end result of individuals—outliers who become world-renowned scientists, award-winning athletes or rock stars—putting in incredible amounts of time and effort to achieve extraordinary results.

In a 2013 editorial for The New Yorker, Gladwell illustrates this theory even further, defending it from naysayers who argue for natural aptitude over perseverance. He wrote: “The closer psychologists look at the careers of the gifted, the smaller the role innate talent seems to play and the bigger the role preparation seems to play. In cognitively demanding fields, there are no naturals.”

So, what’s the message? Success is hard. It requires dedication, practice and preparation. If you’ve found it, you probably already know this. If you haven’t, think of today as your rehearsal for a brilliant tomorrow. Go over your listing presentation, spend time perfecting what you’ll say when you call a client. And always remember those outliers who only found success because they worked at it every single day.


February 19, 2015



#07 Thoughts on Leadership: Trust from the Source

By Gino Blefari

Last week, I wrote about former Navy SEAL Mark Divine and how his book, Unbeatable Mind, has recently inspired me in my career. At the same time my post was published, an email from Mark came in, which might seem like a coincidence but we all know it’s the universe at work.Mark’s email delved deeper into the topic of trustworthiness, a cornerstone of any successful real estate operation and a character trait every great leader must possess. In light of the importance we, as leaders, should place on trust, I found Mark’s comments particularly insightful and would like to share them with you now:


So, what’s the message?According to Commander Divine, trust is not only symptomatic of a genuinely honest person, it’s also a factor toward creating a healthy sense of selflessness in any team or organization. Trustworthy leaders understand how to lead their team, their business and themselves, guided by the sense of “duty” they feel to find success for all.


February 19, 2015



#06 Thoughts on Leadership: An Unbeatable Mind

By Gino Blefari

Last week, my travels took me all over the Golden State—from San Francisco to Palm Springs. And this week, I’m still in California, working closely with our staff at HSF Affiliates in Irvine. In between conference calls and meetings, I had the incredible opportunity to chat with author and former Navy SEAL Mark Divine, who penned one of my favorite leadership books, “Unbeatable Mind.” During our conversation, Mark was incredibly friendly, even extending an invitation for me to visit his SEALFIT training camp, which from what I’m told, is everything you’d expect from a hard-core fitness facility. Even over the phone, Mark’s can-do attitude and positive outlook fit perfectly with the resiliency and mental toughness he champions in his writing. More on his leadership philosophy later …

First, let me tell you how this all started.

A few weeks ago, I was in Tampa visiting Broker/Owners Dewey Mitchell, Allen Crumbley and their team at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Properties Group.  While speaking with Dewey, Allen and Mike Fields, managing director at Orion Commercial Services, LLC, which provides commercial technology support to the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices network, “Unbeatable Mind” came up in conversation. I would be quoting from the book during my presentation later that morning and I mentioned the impact Mark Divine’s ideas about leadership have had on my life.

The following day, I was having breakfast with Mike Fields and his 22-year-old son, Derek. Mike mentioned how highly I spoke of Mark Divine and Derek told me he has a connection to Commander Divine. Talk about six degrees of separation!

Fast forward to this Monday and to my phone conversation with The New York Times bestselling author. It was amazing to hear the personification of what had previously been inspiring words on a page and to dig deeper into the former Navy SEAL’s mindset for undeniable, unbeatable success, as explained by the man himself. I told Commander Divine how his breathing techniques allow me stay calm in stressful situations; how his advice for controlling fear—“feeding the courage wolf”—have helped me find inner strength when it’s needed most; how his ideas about the importance of trustworthiness provide endless motivation in my new role as CEO of HSF Affiliates.

He was both gracious and amiable, and glad to hear how his book had been so significant to my life. However, as much as “Unbeatable Mind” has influenced my own professional journey, its tenets can just as easily be applied to anyone in any field looking to accomplish goals and move forward with strength and determination. For instance, take Commander Divine’s discussion of trustworthiness and loyalty, or, what he refers to as “the glue that holds relationships and teams together.” In “Unbeatable Mind,” he lists seven qualities that trustworthy individuals display:

  1. They are aligned in thought, word and deed and thus display integrity in their actions.
  2. They follow through on all commitments.
  3. They are courageous and don’t shirk from responsibilities or challenging assignments.
  4. They don’t run or hide during a crisis but rather step up to lead and help out.
  5. They are competent enough to get the job done well or at least have the insight to ask the right questions!
  6. They are humble and don’t need all the credit.
  7. They are supportive of the team and delegate and trust them.


So, what’s the message? Stay committed, humble and motivated. Be a trustworthy and loyal leader and member of your team. That’s the kind of person we should all aspire to be, a person just like the one I was fortunate enough to meet this week.


February 12, 2015


#05 Thoughts on Leadership: Leadership Springs from Nowhere 

By Gino Blefari

Leadership can spring from unexpected people in unexpected places. I was struck by this fact Sunday watching the Seahawks and Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX. This incredible game matched all the hype, with lead changes, hard-hitting and dramatic plays.

Both teams’ stars came out to play with quarterbacks Tom Brady (the game’s eventual MVP) and Russell Wilson orchestrating scoring drives involving key players; and the defenses flexing their might at important junctures.

This was pro football’s biggest stage in front of more than 70,000 screaming fans and the largest audience in American television history (114.4 million) – certainly no place for the meek.

Yet two players emerged seemingly out of nowhere to change the course of the big game.

Seattle wide receiver Chris Matthews caught four passes for 109 yards and a touchdown. His first catch in the Super Bowl was the first catch of his NFL career. His next two pass receptions led to Seattle scores. That’s a nice night for any receiver but even more so considering Matthews was released from the Canadian Football League and was working as a Foot Locker security guard in early 2014. He tried out for the Seahawks in 2014 but was cut just before the season started, and then languished on Seattle’s practice squad until a late-season call-up placed him on the 53-man roster just before the playoffs. Matthews’ recovery of an onside kick helped Seattle beat Green Bay to reach the Super Bowl.

New England cornerback Malcolm Butler, an undrafted rookie, didn’t start the game and wasn’t even on the field when the Seahawks huddled for their fateful, last offensive play. With time running out, Seattle had the ball on New England’s 1-yard-line and needed only a touchdown to win. Butler was rushed into the game to counter a Seattle formation. Shocking everyone watching except possibly Butler, Seattle threw a pass that the cornerback calmly intercepted. Game over. New England won.

Butler had a tough childhood and played only two years of high school football. He was excused from his junior college football team before returning and later transferring to the University of West Alabama. He played there with enough distinction to merit a contract from the Patriots.

There’s a good chance both players will be on their teams’ respective rosters when the 2015 season starts. They deserve it.

The simple message is this: It doesn’t matter if you’re an undrafted free agent, a real estate pro or anything else you love to do; when it’s your time, and things are most on the line, seize the opportunity with everything you have.


February 6, 2015



#04 Thoughts on Leadership: No Place Like Home

By Gino Blefari

This week, my travels found me in Florida visiting Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Network Realty, Florida Properties Group and tomorrow, the team at Florida Realty. I’m thankful to have the opportunity to meet so many inspiring agents, managers and executives, all leaders in their own right who make me feel at home with their generosity and kindness.At Florida Network Realty, I was able to participate in their Wizard of Oz-themed awards celebration. It was a whimsical, fun experience and made me think about that classic tale of Dorothy and her journey down the yellow brick road, a story interwoven with practical lessons about leadership and life.Take, for instance, the Cowardly Lion, one of Dorothy’s travel companions. From this once-scared king of the jungle we can learn the lesson of courage and the importance of taking risks no matter how concerned we are about the outcome. Because often, the best results only appear when we’re a little bit fearful, walking that careful line—or in the Cowardly Lion’s case, yellow brick road—between comfort and the unknown.Then, think about the Scarecrow, the man made from straw who wants nothing more than a brain. By the conclusion of the story, he’s hailed as the wisest man of all. The lesson? Don’t be weighed down by self-doubt. Be confident in your abilities and the fact that you have enough knowledge and know-how to see anything through.Next, the Tin Man, a silvery figure who longs for a heart. By the time the narrative is over, it is revealed that heart or not, the Tinman was one of the most tender characters in Oz. Here we see the importance of passion in our endeavors. The business of real estate is emotional, it’s stressful and you must approach every transaction, meeting and negotiation with compassion and a whole lot of heart in order to make your clients proud.Lastly, we have Dorothy—and of course, her loyal dog, Toto—a woman searching for a way home. In the end, Dorothy famously clicks her heels and returns to Kansas. More importantly, as she finds herself finally back in her own room, she realizes that even while she was lost in Oz, she was still home. Why? Because, as we know better than anyone in any profession, home isn’t about four walls and a roof. Home travels with you wherever you are and there’s really no other place like it.


January 29, 2015 



#03 Thoughts on Leadership: A Fourth Quarter Win

By Gino Blefari

“If you can keep your head when all about youAre losing theirs and blaming it on you,If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,But make allowance for their doubting too …”–    Rudyard Kipling, “If”

Stepping off the plane in Seattle Monday, I was overwhelmed by the number of travelers at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport who were sporting Seahawks jerseys, although it made perfect sense. Only one day before, in a thrilling overtime triumph, the Seattle Seahawks had earned their spot in this year’s Super Bowl match- up. Let me explain …

Trailing 19-7 with just over four minutes remaining in the final quarter of the 2015 NFC Championship game, it looked like the Seahawks, defending Super Bowl champions, were done. The bright blue and green section of the crowd was already trickling out of CenturyLink Field and it seemed “The 12th Man,” Seattle’s rowdy fans, had been silenced.

The Seahawks’ opponents, the Green Bay Packers, played a solid three quarters, even with their star quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, suffering from an injured calf. In fact, they overwhelmed Seattle at every turn. But if there’s an antidote to combat impending defeat it comes by way of one simple word and one very complex concept: faith. Whether it’s faith in your team, faith in your abilities, faith in fighting until the very end or some combination of all three, faith can be enough to pull through and succeed.

And faith is certainly what carried the Seahawks to an overtime victory, beating the Packers 28-22 and sending the team to Super Bowl XLIX.

“Such a classic challenge and our guys found a way to get it done,” said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll in a post-game interview. “That took tremendous faith by everybody, not just Russell.”

Carroll alludes to Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, a 2012 third-round draft pick who arguably played one of the worst games of his career … until he didn’t. As the fourth quarter began, the Seahawks had already committed five turnovers, four from interceptions thrown by Wilson. However, late in the fourth quarter, Wilson put a drive together that ultimately allowed the Seahawks to cut their deficit to 19-14 with 2:09 remaining. Then, Seattle’s recovery of an onsite kick kept the dream alive. The team took its first lead a few moments later when running back Marshawn Lynch dashed 24 yards for a TD and the Seahawks added a two-point conversion. But the game wasn’t over yet. Green Bay tied the score in regulation only to have the Seahawks win the game with a dramatic touchdown pass in overtime.

This week, let’s let Russell Wilson explain the leadership message. “Just [make] the plays at the end and keep believing,” he said, tearing up after the spectacular Seahawks victory on Sunday. “There was no doubt … we had no doubt as a team.”

In other words, the Seahawks never lost faith and now, they’ll play the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. It’s an important lesson for us, as leaders, to remember. No matter how dire it seems, no matter how far behind you may be in the fourth quarter, keep fighting and maintain your confidence because there’s always a chance.

“If you can force your heart and nerve and sinewTo serve your turn long after they are gone,And so hold on when there is nothing in youExcept the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on! ’”–    Rudyard Kipling, “If”


January 22, 2015 



#02 Thoughts on Leadership: Soaring with Ducks and Buckeyes

By Gino Blefari

While enjoying the College Football Playoff national championship game Monday night and the dramatic duel between two exceptional quarterbacks—Oregon Duck Marcus Mariota and Ohio State Buckeye Cardale Jones—I was reminded of a Chinese proverb:

“Not the cry, but the flight of a wild duck, leads the flock to fly and follow.”

The Duck pun is somewhat unintentional. The message, of course, is that true leaders through their actions—not necessarily their words—inspire others to achieve.

Though Mariota and the Ducks lost the title game, there’s no question the quarterback led Oregon football with the talent, skill and composure rarely seen from a college athlete. He has additional credentials worth mentioning. Mariota won the 2014 Heisman Trophy—college football’s MVP honor—and was the 2014 consensus national player of the year. As a three-year starter, Mariota led the Ducks to a 36-5 record, and set an NCAA record by passing for a touchdown in all 41 career starts. He is the only three-time, first-team all-Pac-12 quarterback in conference history.

The soft-spoken Mariota was rarely penalized and widely recognized by teammates and opponents for his sportsmanship, character and selflessness. Good guy. Lethal competitor.

In accepting his Heisman last month, Mariota said the award belonged to his Oregon teammates and coaches, and thanked other coaches and teachers in his life for the “countless life lessons that have shaped me.” Mariota credited his Polynesian elders for teaching him “humility and respect” and to be “mindful and faithful.” Finally, through his tears, Mariota thanked his parents for their love and sacrifice.

Oregon Head Coach Mark Helfrich said his quarterback has “everything you’d want in a football player.” I humbly add that Mariota is beyond his years (he’s 21) as a leader with confidence, intelligence, drive, poise, focus, perseverance and the ability to inspire a disparate group of athletes to the brink of their greatest goal.

In speaking to reporters after the loss, Mariota simply said: “It’s a gift to be a part of this team.”

Hats off to Ohio State, which has a remarkable quarterback of its own. Sophomore Cardale Jones began the year as the team’s No. 3 player at his position, and started only three games all year—the last being the national championship. Still, Jones engineered a relentless Buckeye offense that eventually wore down the Ducks and keyed his team’s victory.

The future looks bright for Ohio State, just as it does for Marcus Mariota, who announced Wednesday that he’ll forgo his final year of college eligibility to enter the NFL draft. Mariota, who already earned his bachelor’s degree in general science, is prepared to lead—on or off of the football field.

Let this soaring Duck serve as reminder to all of us that talent, drive and vision, combined with humility and respect, are the playbook for effective leadership.


January 15, 2015



By Gino Blefari

My thoughts this week are less thoughts than they are a written tribute to someone I’ve forever admired and respected as a titan in the sports-reporting industry, a kind-hearted man who famously prized family above fortune and still rose to the status of a cherished icon in his field. If you haven’t guessed, I’m speaking of renowned sports commentator Stuart Scott, who tragically passed away several days ago at the age of 49, leaving behind a legacy of compassion and strength, and a message any leader can learn from: Even when faced with an opponent as merciless as cancer, there’s always an opportunity to fight.

In a touching speech delivered at the 2014 ESPY Awards ceremony, Stuart eulogized his own life, acknowledging his then 7-year-long battle against a rare form of cancer while also refusing to succumb to its malice. “When you die it does not mean that you lose to cancer,” he explained as he accepted the Jimmy V Award—named after the late basketball coach Jimmy Valvano—for sports broadcasting excellence. “You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live.” Later Stuart added, “Our life’s journey is really about the people that touch us.”

Well, touché, Mr. Scott.

I’ll count myself among those touched by Stuart’s sentiments, an avid sports fan who remembers Stuart’s impassioned “boo-ya!”s and near-lyrical descriptions of three-point shots and touchdowns. I also remember the infectious joy he brought to countless rivalry showdowns and playoff games, possessing a passion for all sports that nearly bubbled across my television screen. And even as he fought his disease, this joy never waned, making him the epitome of a true leader, a brave, valiant and confident fighter, and a sportscasting soldier who battled for victory until the bitter end.

So, what’s the message?

I’ll let Mr. Scott tell you in his words, once delivered on the ESPYs stage this past July, as he stood tall against the podium, inspiring millions of leaders listening to his every word. They watched this beloved longtime commentator stand tall in the face of death and still speak with dignity and pride.

“Fighting is winning,” he said. “Every day, I fight.”


January 8, 2015



By Gino Blefari

“When it comes to setting goals, the law of diminishing returns is as real as the law of gravity.” – The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey and Jim Huling

It’s an age-old tradition: The clock strikes midnight. It’s Jan. 1 and we mentally run through our list of resolutions for the new year, ready to conquer all of them. And by New Year’s Eve of the following year, we celebrate our accomplishments, satisfied with the fact that we’ve achieved every single goal we set out to attain, right? Well, maybe.Goals are important and you know I’m the first person to advocate for their creation and adherence. However, if set incorrectly, goals can be just that, simple words written down on a page, devoid of any meaning or purpose. So, how do you set goals you can actually accomplish?Here’s one trick: Set fewer goals and you’ll see better results. In truth, nobody has the ability to multitask. Studies show that human beings are genetically wired to do only one thing at a time with excellence. For goal-setting, this translates into the careful selection of no more than two to three goals you’ll accomplish in the new year.

Observe the following chart from The 4 Disciplines of Execution:

Number of Goals



     4-10      11-20 
Goals Achievedwith Excellence   2-3   1-2   0

As you can see, the more goals you set, the less likely you are to achieve them. The concept isn’t brand new, it’s been used for years by successful business leaders around the world, but it is often overlooked. Here are 10 examples of preeminent leaders who understand the concept of realistic goal-setting:

  • “Quality is much better than quantity. One home run is much better than two doubles.” – Steve Jobs, former CEO of Apple

  • “Success is never getting to the bottom of your to-do list.” – Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo!

  • “Reach high, for stars lie hidden in your soul. Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal.” – Mother Teresa

  • “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.” – John Wooden, basketball player and coach

  • “The big secret in life is that there is no big secret. Whatever your goal, you can get there if you’re willing to work.” – Oprah Winfrey, O Magazine

  • “Success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal or ideal.” – Earl Nightingale, motivational speaker and author

  • “I don’t believe in perfection. I don’t think there is such a thing. But the energy of wanting things to be great is a perfectionist energy.” – Reese Witherspoon, actress

  • “True happiness is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.” – Helen Keller

  • “A goal properly set is halfway reached.” – Zig Ziglar, author salesman and speaker

  • “Human beings only use ten percent of their brains. Ten percent! Can you imagine how much we could accomplish if we used the other sixty percent?” – Ellen Degeneres, talk show host and actress

It’s always good to keep goal-setting in perspective.

Here’s to a happy and prosperous new year,Gino


By Gino Blefari

In my years of business, I’ve come across some exceptional leaders, men and women who can motivate with a single word, encourage with a single action and inspire without saying anything at all. Still, there’s one leader I’ve yet to meet, someone who I consider the epitome of enthusiasm, leading his employees with cheerful insights and sharing with the public nothing but pure joy.Who is this amazing person, you ask? Well, the happiest leader of them all … jolly old St. Nick.Think about it: He has a lot on his milk-and-cookie filled plate. St. Nick has to be efficient, discerning, motivational and steadfastly optimistic. He also must be punctual, trustworthy and someone who leads by example as Cheer Executive Officer for children everywhere. (And he most likely has to report all of his actions to the real boss of the North Pole, Mrs. Claus.)In fact, you could say St. Nick understands the four disciplines of execution: He knows his wildly important goals, (deliver gifts and spread holiday cheer), he acts on his lead measures, understanding the actions he must take—drive the sleigh, manage a department of reindeers—to achieve results. He also keeps a compelling scoreboard, checking his lists (twice). Finally, he creates a cadence of accountability and maintains a positive culture in his workshop. Can you imagine what would happen to toy productivity if his team wasn’t motivated or held accountable for their actions?And, most impressively, his business travels take him across the entire globe, shimmying through narrow chimneys the world over in the span of only one night. (I wonder how complicated those expense reports must get …)So what’s the key message to be learned from such leadership? Well, it depends. Because Santa represents the essence of the holiday season and the holiday season means so many things to so many different people. For some, it’s about spreading joy and observing the spirit of the season. For others, it’s about spending quality time with friends and family, or setting goals and reflecting on the year gone by then deciding to make this new one even better.Whatever the upcoming holiday means to you, be sure to make it a great one, filled with warmth, merriment and love.Happy Holidays,Gino




By Gino Blefari

This week I was in Washington, D.C. to help celebrate the launch of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices PenFed Realty. For those who have never been, Washington, D.C. is a beautiful city steeped in American history; you practically feel like a Founding Father walking the cobblestone streets. It’s also the place where you’ll find one extraordinary 132- room, 35-bathroom, six-story home, designed in the neoclassical style and painted white. (Once a real estate agent, always a real estate agent, right?) Inside this white house, some of the country’s—and world’s—greatest leaders lived and prospered, changing the course of history through their actions and words.One of its most inspirational residents was arguably Abraham Lincoln, the 16th U.S. president. Most people know Lincoln for his incredible triumphs for civil rights and basic freedom but did you know that these accomplishments only arrived after years of failure and rejection? Observe:

  • 1832 – Defeated for legislature

  • 1838 – Defeated for Speaker

  • 1843 – Defeated for nomination for Congress

  • 1849 – Rejected for Land Officer

  • 1854 – Defeated for Senate

  • 1856 – Defeated for nomination for Vice President

  • 1858 – Again defeated for Senate

  • 1860 - Elected President

So here’s the message: Sometimes facing defeat—losing a deal, making the wrong decision, struggling in your business, stumbling with a client—is ok. It is most often in these missteps that we find the determination to succeed, and it’s always because we believe in our cause, in our business, in our employees so much that we know if we just keep on moving forward, there’s no way we can possibly fail.