Lately I’ve been reading and hearing a lot about mentors and the tremendous impact they’ve had on most of today’s business leaders. I’m happy to see people vocalizing just how important having a great mentor can be in shaping our professional and personal lives. I have been blessed with the wisdom of many mentors throughout my life and that continues today. However, with the exception of my wonderful grandfather, there is one person who stands out as the most influential force in my early life. I still reflect on how truly blessed I am to have worked for and with a man who I still consider to be one of the best human beings I have ever met. So, I thought this week I’d document some of the prophetic and occasionally funny things my mentor taught me.
First some quick background. I was 22 years old, fresh out of college, and full of energy, ambition and bravado. I had just completed an internship at a commercial real estate brokerage firm in Fort Worth and after months of interviewing and pleading, they agreed to hire me as an associate broker, on one condition. I had to agree to work under one of the founders of the company until I reached a level of experience and income they felt was satisfactory before being on my own. I didn’t understand at the time what an amazing gift the leaders of that firm had given me.
I spent the next four years working for that man. I learned the real estate business in a fashion that few get to experience. Yes, certainly the mechanics, the financial and market aspects, but more importantly he taught me humility, work ethic and what integrity really meant. He didn’t do this through countless condescending lectures or moments of lessons-learned. He did it purely through example. He was so honest and great at his craft, he made it impossible not to emulate him. He had no idea (and probably still doesn’t) what an amazing role model he was. Fortunately, I had the courage to look up to him and the wisdom to recognize what an amazing teacher he was. The man I speak of is Jack Huff and to this day, the principals he passed along have become a driving force of who I am.
As a very small tribute to my mentor, here are just a few snippets of the sagely advice he passed on to a hotshot CRE broker wannabe 20+ years ago…
- “After 3 years in this business, you’ll never want to work in any other industry.”
- “Always do the right thing, even if it’s not noticed.”
- “Sometimes when you lose a deal, you gain a client.”
- “Successful people in real estate aren’t always the most talented; they just care more and work harder than most.”
- “A mistake made through honesty can be forgiven. A mistake from greed can cost you forever.”
- “The moment you’re advising clients and have your commission in mind, stop talking.”
- “The reason real estate is a relationship business is because people will choose integrity over intelligence nearly every time.”
- “Return every phone call before you go home.”
- “Lunch is where relationships are made. I don’t ever want to see you eating at your desk.”
- “If you ever feel like you’re not connecting with someone, ask about their kids.”
- “You can tell a whole lot about a person by just looking at what’s in their office.”
- “You will know when you are experienced when you know enough to know you don’t have to know.”
Role models are hard to find in today’s world. That’s why finding one is so valuable. One thing is for sure, we all need good mentor-compasses in our lives to help us mark our goals and gauge where we are on that path. If you’ve had have a mentor, you know what I mean. If you don’t, I hope you find one, they can really make an amazing difference in your life.