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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 


#183 Thoughts on Leadership: Are You Happy, Always?


By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me first in Orange County, conducting meetings and strategizing with the team at the HSF Affiliates headquarters in Irvine. Next, I traveled to Minneapolis for a HomeServices of America, Inc. board meeting. From there, I traveled home to Northern California, where I sit writing this to you now, preparing for a 10-day road trip.

Over the next week and a half I’ll travel to Boston for the National Association of REALTORSÒ Conference & Expo, (if you can’t make it, I suggest following #NARAnnual on Twitter for the live updates), then jet across the pond to London for the launch of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Kay & Co, our network’s second global franchisee. Finally, I’ll end up in Berlin to visit with our award-winning brokerage, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Rubina Real Estate.

It’s going to be a whirlwind journey, complete with chances to deepen existing connections and forge new ones, two activities that bring me happiness. As I always say, I love what I do largely because of who I get to do it with … but I also love my job. Genuinely. Helping others achieve their goals faster than they would in my absence (my personal mission) makes me happy each and every day.

The concept of happiness is important—maybe the most important—and it’s one I’ve been thinking about as I read Happily Ever After: A Top-Selling Real Estate Broker’s Secret Guide to Confidence, Contentedness and Security.

The book was written by Michael Rosenblum, a top-producing agent with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices KoenigRubloff Realty Group’s Gold Coast office in Chicago. (You can find out more about him and purchase the book at happilyeveralways.com.)

Michael’s book is an intriguing read because so many threads of his personal happiness philosophy mesh with my own. Here are my five favorite concepts Michael outlines in the book:

Happiness is an inside job. Michael begins the book with a quote from one of my favorites, Ralph Waldo Emerson: “What lies before us and what lies behind us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” This means we can destroy our own happiness but better yet, we can also create it. Any goal—no matter how big or how small—can be accomplished with a positive mindset.

Happiness means being true to your word and applying yourself fully to your commitments. When you commit to something and give your word, you must always follow through. Acting on your commitments strengthens the relationships with those around you. (As a reminder, in the 4DX system, we state our commitments with a regular cadence and MUST execute on the Wildly
Important Goals we commit to accomplishing.) As Michael writes, “Even when you seem to have nothing, you still have your word. And like any asset, your word has value—a value decided by the people to whom you give your word and your ability to follow through on the promises (spoken and unspoken) you make to the people around you. Fulfillment on your word compounds over time.”

Complacency is the nemesis to personal growth. “We become comfortable with our stature, but the next level is still out there if we only had the strength to reach it,” Michael writes. “In the continuum of experiences that shape us into the people we become, it is our responsibility to be aware.” As I always say, smugness comes before arrogance and arrogance is the precursor to disaster. Once you think you know it all, your slide to mediocrity has already begun.

Some of the most impactful lessons we’ll learn on our path to happiness will be gleaned through our hardest challenges. Michael emphasizes that a lot of the lessons he learned in his media and real estate careers came from adversity. “Not all lessons are taught through the generosity of loved ones,” he writes. But, as he eloquently explains, spring always follows winter and sunshine always follows the rain. If you begin to see your challenges as experiences from which you’ll grow, you can find happiness even in the toughest of situations.

Acts of kindness bring personal contentment but acts of kindness with no expectation for gain bring true happiness. Taken over time, this is a recipe for true and lasting happiness. Be altruistic and compassionate with no agenda in mind. Happiness is not about personal advancement at the expense of others; it’s about selflessness because you want to see others succeed.

So, what’s the message? Simply put: Happiness is possible for everyone, though it’s often a slow process. As Michael writes, “It’s like putting a seed in the ground. It doesn’t become a plant overnight.” He also describes that happiness is a thing made not found, which is a truth that benefits us all. Because in the end, if we can craft our own happiness that means it’ll stay with us not just today or tomorrow but always.

November 02, 2018


#182 Thoughts on Leadership: Courage, Compassion and Ohana


By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me in Lake Tahoe, California attending Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices’ annual CFO Conference, a gathering of brokerage and finance leaders from franchisees throughout our network.

What I like most about the CFO Conference is that it harnesses the input and best practices of our network’s finance professionals, so all attendees leave with ideas and information to help their companies grow and prosper. Susan Erway of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Beazley, REALTORS in Augusta, Georgia, said the conference helped her examine challenges in a different light and, when talking through issues with like-minded leaders, “the real brainstorming begins. I am immensely grateful for the value the CFO Conference brings me and my company.”

We, too, are grateful for these finance leaders and for their collective intellect and team spirit.

Another example of compelling leadership came from the Florida Panhandle, which took a direct blow last week from Hurricane Michael. As a society, we tend to follow natural disasters as they’re broadcasted and, if we don’t live in the affected areas or have loved ones there, we shift our focus elsewhere once the trouble passes. Through the eyes of John David Sullivan, part of the ownership team at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Beach Properties of Florida in the Panhandle, I hope to refocus attention on the devastated region.

Hurricane Michael, a Category 1 storm, gained surprising speed and slammed into the Panhandle at Mexico Beach Oct. 10 with windspeeds of 155 mph – just shy of Category 5 status.
Michael, the most powerful storm on record to reach the Panhandle, obliterated Mexico Beach, Panama City and neighboring communities. Roads, homes, buildings, trees and cars were scraped from the landscape by winds and storm surge and piled in mounds everywhere. Even Tyndall Air Force Base, home to the 325th Fighter Wing and 55 F-22 Raptor jets, suffered immense damage. It’s feared that 22 of those jets have been destroyed, each at a cost of $330 million.

Mountains of debris across Bay County, Florida are hampering recovery efforts as is a lack of electricity, internet and cellular service. First responders in many of these communities have included local residents who mobilized as individuals and melded into small and nimble groups. One is John David Sullivan.

Sullivan, a resident of nearby Santa Rosa Beach, packed up his family Tuesday, Oct. 9 and evacuated west to Biloxi, Mississippi. He returned the morning of Oct. 11 to learn the fate of his home and community. Both were spared by the storm yet just 20 miles to the east began the broad path cut by Michael. Sullivan met a friend and the two drove as far as they could in the direction of Mexico Beach. “We were driving over power lines, trees and debris,” Sullivan said. “So many roads were blocked by trees we needed a way to get through.”
Sullivan found a Sam’s Club and bought as many as 60 chainsaws so he and others could get closer to the devastated areas and help. They drove the chainsaws to a parking lot in Lynn Haven – a suburb of Panama City – and handed out the first saw. Word of the chainsaws spread quickly, and power lineman began showing up to take a saw and go help.

Others arrived at the Lynn Haven parking lot with relief supplies. A man drove across the state to drop off a pallet of water. Then, an 18-wheeler showed up with baby supplies – wipes, diapers, formula. People wheeled up gas grills and cooked hamburgers for anyone who approached. By Sunday, Oct. 14, donated food and relief supplies were so abundant they needed an adjacent parking lot to store and move the goods to areas in need.

With supplies constantly rolling in, Sullivan sought a safer place farther away from the devastation so more volunteers could collect and move goods. They set up in the parking lot of the Ohana Institute school in Rosemary Beach. People brought food and volunteers began making sandwiches and sack lunches for delivery to the Lynn Haven relief hub. “On Tuesday, we fed close to 15,000 people,” Sullivan reported.

With help fully underway and cell phone service returning, Sullivan connected with Beach Properties of Florida co-owners Hunter Harman and Price Rainer. Independently, Harman drove to Baton Rouge, Louisiana and brought back a load of portable generators, tarps, trash bags and other goods. Rainer mobilized through his church to collect food and clothing.

The three accounted for the last of their agents and employees by Wednesday, Oct. 17 including Kimberly Smith and her family, who for two days were trapped in their home by broken trees and mounds of debris. Smith managed to send a text message and Sullivan dispatched Ryan Jones, husband of New Homes Division VP Lisa Jones, with one of the chainsaws. Jones cut away trees and part of a roof to free Smith and her family.

Beach Properties of Florida owners gathered their entire team Wednesday to help brokerage members living in devastated communities from Panama City to St. George Island to Port St. Joseph – areas still without fresh water, power and other necessities. They brought water, food and supplies and made repairs to agents’ homes where they could. “This was a day to refocus and help our own,” said Sullivan. “We are so fortunate and thankful our people and their families miraculously made it through the storm. We will recover. We will help our communities recover.”

So, what’s the message? There are many, starting with the fact that true leaders find the ability to summon courage and clear thought in the face of extreme adversity. And, in those moments, a purposeful first step leads to another and another, and can eventually move mountains. John David Sullivan is such a leader and in concert with many others, helped an entire region stagger to its feet and begin the long journey to recovery. It’s fitting that Sullivan and his friends chose the Ohana Institute as a hub for relief. Ohana, as many know, is the Hawaiian word for family and I can’t think of a better example of family at the moment than the compassionate gestures of Sullivan and others for the broader family of the Florida Panhandle. Sullivan and Beach Properties of Florida have established a GoFundMe account to help the recovery. If you’d like to contribute please click here.

October 26, 2018


#181 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


#180 Thoughts on Leadership: Learning from Leaders


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 05, 2018


#179 THOUGHTS ON LEADERSHIP: FIVE STARS VIDEO #3


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


#178 THOUGHTS ON LEADERSHIP: FIVE STARS VIDEO #1


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


#176 THOUGHTS ON LEADERSHIP : HABITS FOR WEALTH


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


#175 THOUGHTS ON LEADERSHIP: RETREAT TO PROGRESS


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


#173 THOUGHTS ON LEADERSHIP


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


#172 THOUGHTS ON LEADERSHIP : LESSONS LEARNED BY VAYNERMEDIA


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


#171 THOUGHTS ON LEADERSHIP : LET’S CONTEMPLATE COMPLACENCY


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


#171 THOUGHTS ON LEADERSHIP : LONGEVITY AND LEADERS


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


#170 THOUGHTS ON LEADERSHIP : MINIMIZE EXCESS TO MAXIMIZE RESULTS


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


#168 THOUGHTS ON LEADERSHIP: MAKE A DIFFERENCE


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


#167 THOUGHTS ON LEADERSHIP: MORE ABOUT NEGOTIATION


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


#166 THOUGHTS ON LEADERSHIP: A TRIBUTE TO MY PAL DWIGHT CLARK


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


#165 THOUGHTS ON LEADERSHIP: DRIVING YOUR WILDLY IMPORTANT GOALS


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


#164 THOUGHTS ON LEADERSHIP: THE POWER OF NEGOTIATION


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


#162 THOUGHTS ON LEADERSHIP: THE IMPORTANCE OF AN ACCOUNTABILITY PARTNER


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


#161 THOUGHTS ON LEADERSHIP: DO WHATEVER IT TAKES


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
  2. “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
  3. “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” – Nelson Mandela
  4. “Champions keep playing until they get it right.” – Billie Jean King
  5. “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration. The rest of us just get up and go to work.” – Stephen King
  6. “The only way around is through.” – Robert Frost
  7. “Success is often achieved by those who don’t know that failure is inevitable.” – Coco Chanel
  8. “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


#160 THOUGHTS ON LEADERSHIP: FOCUS ON THE TOP LINE


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


#159 THOUGHTS ON LEADERSHIP: THE JOURNEY TO SOMEWHERE NEW


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


#158 THOUGHTS ON LEADERSHIP: COMING FULL CIRCLE


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


#157 THOUGHTS ON LEADERSHIP: RETRIEVING THE WIN


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


#156 THOUGHTS ON LEADERSHIP: TAKE TIME TO RECHARGE


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


#155 THOUGHTS ON LEADERSHIP: A TIME TO CELEBRATE


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


#154 THOUGHTS ON LEADERSHIP: SEE YOU IN SAN ANTONIO


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


#153 THOUGHTS ON LEADERSHIP: HOW TO LOSE, HOW TO WIN


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


#152 THOUGHTS ON LEADERSHIP: THE IMPORTANCE OF PREPARATION


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


#151 THOUGHTS ON LEADERSHIP: THE SPIRIT OF THE UNDERDOG


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


#150 THOUGHTS ON LEADERSHIP: TEMPERATURE CHECK FOR LEADERS


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


#149 THURSDAY THOUGHTS ON LEADERSHIP: THE IMPORTANCE OF A MORNING ROUTINE


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,Gino

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