To express my gratitude and to demonstrate the importance of mentors, I have listed the people who have helped me in my career. It’s true that you can’t do it alone and I am so grateful for the incredible, talented, giving people who have contributed to the richness of my life. In chronological order, here are those people.
CRS Instructors | Del Bain | Dave Beson | Howard Brinton | Bill Barrett | Pat Zaby
Mike Vance | Mike Lurie | Dr. Wayne Dyer | Danielle Kennedy & Mike Craig
Dave Liniger | Thom Winninger | Mike Ferry
Dar became my best friend when I moved to St. Paul, MN in 1964, and the friendship continued through high school and college to this day. We were fraternity brothers at Delta Tau Delta at the University of Minnesota and best men at each other’s weddings. I knew Dar would be successful at an early age because he was smart with money, smooth at business and was a master at building relationships. He was the first to teach me the business and selling skills that I use today.
During the summers of 1970-1972, to earn money for college when jobs were scarce, we started Knox-Reedy Painting Company. We hired unemployed college students to help us paint residential homes and worked by the job, instead of the hour. We learned the incentive of doing a job promptly and properly.
In November 1972 I joined Dar in a real estate licensing class, got my license then sold for a small company. In 1973 he invited me to join him in a new startup company called Burnet Gagner Realty. It was one of my best moves ever.
During those early years I watched Dar open the St. Paul side of the company and take it from just the two of us up to 20-plus offices and a dominant market share. He showed me how to open new offices, recruit agents and develop a profitable business. It was he who taught me the “price is right” game where you point out a recent sale to a prospective buyer then have them guess the sale price. It’s always higher than they expect so after a few rounds, buyers begin to get realistic about what they’ll have to pay for a home.
Dar has been a constant source of advice and counsel as I grow my business. Thank you, Dar. By bringing me to Burnet Gagner Realty, I met my next mentor, Ralph Burnet.
On April 19, 1973 Dar Reedy introduced me to Ralph Burnet for the first time. He had just started Burnet Gagner Realty after leaving Bermel Smaby Realtors®, a large independent company in the Minneapolis area. He couldn’t contain his enthusiasm when describing his future plans for his new company and rolled out a paper scroll of a 25–year plan that addressed the consolidation of the real estate industry and his belief that 5 national companies would do 80% of the business. He planned to have 30 branch offices, thousands of agents, new home sales, a rental division, relocation services, title insurance and a mortgage company.
At this point, my long term planning was about 5 minutes so I was impressed. I accepted the opportunity to work with him and was shown into the new office space. It was empty! No desks, no furniture . . . nothing. Only telephones plugged into the wall and laying on the floor. Well, the furniture soon came. And, in the next ten years, so did 35 offices, 2,500 agents, multiple ancillary services, a dominant market share in the Twin City market, branch offices in St. Paul and, later, an opportunity for me to head up my own training department.
In 1974 Dar Reedy was assigned the task of developing branch offices across the Mississippi River in St. Paul. He and I opened the first branch in a 300 sq. ft. basement office and began recruiting agents. Dar was, and still is to this day, the Master Recruiter of real estate agents. In a few short years, he took the St. Paul division from zero to the most dominant company in St. Paul. He helped me develop my selling skills and I became a top producing agent under his direction.
In 1976 Ralph had asked me to substitute teach an afternoon training class. I remember presenting my very first session in an office conference room on working with buyers. As soon as I finished I knew I’d discovered my new career path. I loved doing the training and, apparently, so did the class. Ralph said I’d received good feedback and asked if I’d like to do more training. Yes, I did!
He offered me the opportunity to design and run a training department. By the fall of 1976 I was the Training Director and had developed a four–week training program that was to run 8-10 times a year. I remember the late evening meetings with Ralph where we put our feet on the desk and discussed the future plans of the company, the training and my career.
Ralph lived by his creed: Fun, Change and Opportunity for Personal Growth. He always prided himself in seeing people grow and advance their careers. He loved watching agents become managers and department heads.
In 1978 we reviewed a revolutionary personal growth video training series called “Achieving Your Potential” by Lou Tice. We purchased the program and I became the company facilitator of this goal setting program.
In 1979 when I was accepted as an instructor for the Residential Sales Counsel of the National Association of Realtors®, he graciously allowed me to do outside speaking at 4 CRS courses each year. It allowed me to grow as an instructor and to bring some national prominence to our training department.
In 1982 I was restless and was considering going out on my own as a national speaker. I met with Ralph to discuss my future. He said I was free to start my own business, but suggested with a wink, “I think you’d better stick around. There might be a great opportunity for you.” Now when Ralph speaks, I listen. Sure enough, on April 1, 1982, Burnet Realty announced the sale of the company to Merrill Lynch. So this was the opportunity he was talking about. He and I had a good laugh that day and he assured me that good things were on the way. I met the President of Merrill Lynch that day and asked him if he had a National Training Director yet. No they didn’t. I told him that he would need one and that I’d like the job.
In 1983 Ralph called me into his office. He had a big smile on his face and couldn’t wait to tell me the news. Merrill Lynch Realty Associates in Stamford, CT was forming a task force on developing a national training program and they wanted me to head it up. That summer I met with my new boss Mike Lurie and I was named National Training Director. I worked with the 33 regional training directors across the country and, with their contribution, we built their training program. It was, and still is, one of the best groups of training professionals in the industry. It was a pleasure to work with them all.
Ralph went on to be Eastern Regional President and moved out to the Merrill Lynch Corporate offices in Stamford, CT. So I was able to work along of him for four more years. He taught me how to interact with the corporate structure and sent me off with one final lesson: never believe in your own corporate importance and always focus your efforts on how you can help the success of the operating units in the field. I will forever be grateful to him.
In March of 1978 I attended a Dave Stone seminar. His training series “The Road to Success in Real Estate” had been a part of my training presentations for a couple of years. The series was on 16mm film at the time!
In this seminar Dave showed us how to use his series to the best advantage and taught us various training and presentation techniques. He was a kind and gentle man and truly cared about his students and trainers.
His training series gave me the skills to develop major points and supporting examples. It also served as a guide years later when I developed my own training program: The Mentor Series II®. I will forever be grateful to him.
In May of 1978 I met another powerful mentor named Lou Tice. He was the president and founder of The Pacific Institute out of Seattle, WA, and the creator of a new video series on goal setting called “Achieving Your Potential”. It was a 12–tape set of videos on goal setting, affirmations and visualization. Ralph Burnet bought the program and included it in our training program.
I attended Lou’s facilitator conference at his home in Seattle and in Harrison Hot Springs. Over the next three days I learned the power of intention, belief, affirmation and visualization as a way of achieving personal and professional growth.
During the seminar I wrote out 40-50 affirmations on 3 X 5 index cards. I spent the next months visualizing my future. One of my affirmations was to be a national speaker achieving success on the national circuit. I showed this to Lou and he said it was too limiting. I should make it international! As I write this today I am living the dream that Lou Tice helped me create. I will forever be grateful to him.
I also learned how to be more disciplined and organized in my presentations. I learned the importance of developing my own personal stories and examples to support my points. In the evenings, after the seminar, I sat in my hotel room and wrote out all the experiences I could think of to support my training. Lou was also the master of the pause and showed us all that the learning happens when we stop talking.
I am saddened to hear of the passing of Lou this April 2012. He helped so many people achieve their goals.
Cliff Robedeax was the President of Robedeax Realty in Milwaukee and a frequent speaker at NAR conventions. I remember watching him deliver a seminar at the 1976 NAR convention and thinking how great it would be to do that some day. In June 1978 I met him at a training director conference in Sea Island, GA (where I also met Dave Beson, another of my mentors).
Part of the requirement of attendance at this conference was to prepare a 15–minute speech on some key thing we do in training. Cliff was in the audience watching and scouting for potential instructors for the CRS program. I gave my presentation on role playing to the group.
At lunch he approached me and asked, “Have you ever thought about doing any national training?” Unbelievable, I had only written my national training affirmation a month ago and here is my first opportunity! I told him about this goal and he said, “You’ll be hearing from me.”
A couple months later I received a letter from RNMI (Realtors® National Marketing Institute, now the Residential Sales Counsel) inviting me to audition in November to become an RS instructor.
Who in real estate hasn’t heard of Tom Hopkins? He revolutionized real estate training and continues to be a force with his Boot Camps. He was one of the first to preach the importance of having a “university on wheels” by listening to audio–taped seminars. He taught the importance of preparation and memorized dialog in sales situations.
He was also the first to be a “showman” in the field of training. I still remember him running onto the stage in front of a huge audience as music played and searchlights scanned the room. He would hold the audience spellbound and entertain us with a letter-perfect presentation delivery.
From Tom I learned the importance of not only the content you present, but the way in which you present it. You have to use every skill you have to keep the attention of your audience in order to deliver your message. Thank you Tom for setting a path for so many of us to follow.
In November 1978 I attended the NAR convention in Honolulu, HI and auditioned to become an RS instructor. Using Lou Tice’s techniques, I went to the audition room the day before so I could pre-visualize the audition and mentally prepare. This was most valuable because I discovered that it was a very small conference room containing a table of five instructors who would watch me.
I spent the evening visualizing a calm, relaxed presentation and a positive outcome. When I entered the room and gave my presentation, I was relaxed and comfortable. It went very well and a short time later I received one of my favorite letters - the invitation to join the ranks of CRS instructors.
For the next fourteen years this group would prove to be the most powerful and lasting influence on my seminar presentations. I was humbled by their power and motivated by their skills. I learned how to develop material, support points, conduct workshops, manage role plays, deliver within allotted time frames, prioritize content, create visual aids, control and manage seminars, and interact with other instructors. There isn’t a minute in a seminar today that I can’t reflect on some specific skill I learned from one of my fellow instructors.
The early RS courses included three instructors: a workshop leader, junior instructor and a senior instructor. As we moved through the ranks we all got to be both mentors and protégés. Every course day ended with a critique session in which we would evaluate each other. I was able to hear honest, specific feedback on how I performed. It was my very first critique session in which I heard my most painful critique from “The Don” of RS instructors, Del Bain.
In February 1979 in Albany, NY I presented my very first CRS course. Del Bain was the Senior instructor and LeRoy Houser was the Junior. Del was, and remains, the master and commander of the RS instructors. He is one of the originals who started the program and is the spiritual leader of the group. He is also very direct, intimidating and unafraid to tell exactly how you screwed up. The new instructors dreaded having to be watched by him.
It wasn’t until after you grew from his tutelage that you appreciated his “tough love” approach to mentoring.
The evening after my first presentation I had one of these famous confrontations with Del. I was looking forward to all the compliments that he must be ready to shower upon me. He had a legal pad filled with pages of writing so I sat eagerly awaiting his praise. After a long pause he said to me: “This is the first time you’ve spoken to a national audience isn’t it?” Yes. “Well it shows.” Uh oh, this doesn’t sound good.
He then said to me: “Let me start by telling you what you did right. You got up there.” My heart sank. After a long pause he asked, “Dave, do you really want to DO this?” Ah, yes, I sure think so. “Then you have a lot to learn. I think you may be in over your head.”
For the next two and a half hours he went through his legal pad telling me point by point all the things that I did wrong. At one point he asked me if I noticed the audience’s reaction to me. Audience? I hadn’t noticed. “Well half of them got up and left the room and one woman actually asked for her money back.”
I returned to my room holding back tears, wondering how I could have been so unaware of my incompetence. I stayed up till 2:00 a.m. working on my next day’s presentation and improved a bit.
In April 1979 I was assigned to an RS course in Columbia, SC. My senior instructor was again Del Bain! This time I vowed to improve. I wanted to give my best performance and secure the approval of my toughest mentor. My opening topic was on how to get listings priced right. I had worked until midnight for thirty days in a row preparing for this one. As I began, Del stood in the back with his arms folded carefully watching me. At about twenty minutes he raised his arm and gave me the OK sign! That evening he said that he would recommend that I be promoted to junior instructor.
Del had a choice that night in Albany. He could have given me some false approval and avoided the evening confrontation. Instead he chose to invest his time, tell the truth and give the tough love that changed my life. I call Del just about every February and thank him for being a true mentor to me. He continues to be one of my best friends and I cherish the time we spend together. He continues to be my “Yoda” and help me grow in life. Thank you, Del.
Dave Beson and I were training directors at competing companies. In the late 70s we knew each other only as training rivals. We met in 1978 at a training director’s conference at Sea Island, GA, and discovered that our similarities outweighed any competition between us. We were both the youngest trainers in our market, had a passion for the same sports cars, had similar teaching styles and shared a “Saturday Night Live” sense of humor.
He has become one of my closest friends, as has his wife, Diane, and their two classy young sons, Drew and Adam.
We began teaching together at continuing education venues in Minneapolis and were the first two instructors hired by Real Estate Resources, now PROSOURCE®.
In 1978 at the Hawaii NAR, we both auditioned to be CRS instructors and were accepted. From 1979 on we ended up teaching CRS courses together and helped each other grow through the program from junior to senior instructors. I think Dave will also credit Del Bain as one of his mentors.
He was the first one in our group to buy a computer - an Apple Macintosh with NO hard drive. He helped me buy my first one and showed me how to use it. (I remember adding a 20 mb hard drive and thinking I’d never need more memory than that!)
In 1987, as I considered starting my own speaking business, I turned to Dave who had been on his own for a few years. When I asked his advice, I remember him saying to me, “C’mon in, the water’s fine.”
I remember the many nights he would drive down the street to my home where we would sit in the hot tub for hours, discussing how to build our business, design seminar content and develop educational products. He continues to be a valuable resource when I need advice. Thank you, Dave.
I met Howard Brinton at a CRS meeting in Washington, DC in May 1979. As one of the senior instructors, he was reputed to be one of the best. I was first taken with his humor, wit and engaging personality. As my senior instructor at a CRS course, I also learned about his strong delivery and ability to give assertive, honest feedback.
Howard spoke of the two personalities we need in our lives: the bull, who will tell us the truth and give us direct feedback, and the lamb who will comfort us when things don’t go well. Howard has been both to me for the last 27 years.
Two key parts of a presentation are the open and the close. I remember Howard teaching me the techniques of a strong, spontaneous open. Over the years I’ve watched him get a sense of an event and the audience, then open in a way that establishes early rapport and credibility.
I watched him take STARpower Systems from an idea to an entity that has changed the way real estate agents perform their business. His advice and counsel have changed the way I do my business. I learned the importance of marketing, taking risks and thinking bigger in order to have a growing business.
Over the years we’ve been invited to share a stage to deliver seminars together. Having two egos competing for attention can be a dangerous situation. Yet every time we do this our mutual respect for each other and desire to deliver to our audience makes this a rewarding experience. He makes me laugh and brightens my day.
No matter what the issue or where I was, I knew I could always call Howard for advice. Thank you, Howard.
On December 26, 2012, Howard passed away. It was a very sad day for me to lose such a great friend and mentor. His funeral was a true celebration of his life, attended by the top trainers and real estate agents on whom he had such a positive influence. We will miss you Howard.
Bill Barrett is another mentor from the ranks of CRS instructors. We met at a CRS meeting and have worked together on various CRS courses. Over the years we have shared the stage many times. The most memorable of these was the first CRS Sellebration event in Las Vegas. Bill was part of our ‘band of brothers’, which included himself, Dave Beson, Howard Brinton and me.
Of all the speakers I know, Bill is the best at research and development of topic ideas. He holds his annual top producer meeting where he collects ideas from 50 of the best agents in the business. He cultivates this information and assembles it into usable form so others can learn from it.
When I got the call that my brother had died, I was in Toronto for a seminar. Bill Barrett was my co-instructor . . . and, through this difficult time, my new brother.
When Bill went through a life and business change in 2000, he moved to Minneapolis to share an office with me. Speaking can be a very lonely business, so it was a pleasure to work together for more than a year. We shared ideas on business, management and content development.
I also met Pat Zaby through the CRS instructor program. His teaching niche was in technology, software, databases and Microsoft® Office products. Within the ranks of CRS instructors, Pat was the best at business planning, analysis and marketing.
He has been a constant source of counsel when it comes to managing my business, analyzing my marketing and developing products. He is a calming influence in an otherwise chaotic business. No matter what the issue or question, we can always count on Pat to provide understanding and counsel.
Throughout the years he has helped me look at the business side of the business. In addition to that, he is a master chef whenever the men get together for a weekend meeting.
I first heard Mike Vance speak at a CRS educational retreat in 1979 and was inspired by his style of fast-paced delivery, amusing stories and creative content. To this day I consider him to be one of the best speakers I have ever heard.
He is the past Dean of Disney University and spent years working along side Walt Disney speaking on creativity. He is the originator of the “Thinking Outside the Box” metaphor. (In my opinion, anyone else who uses that phrase is NOT thinking outside the box!)
I was so enamored with Mike that I brought him to my company to speak on multiple occasions. I gained two benefits: all of our agents got to hear his message, and I got to enjoy private one-on-one visits to have him mentor me. From a 1985 breakfast, I still have the paper placemat on which he wrote notes for me about developing my own speaking style. He compared a speech to a pipe organ. You know the music you plan to deliver, but you alter the delivery, pace, and sound by adjusting the various stops above the keys. To this day I think of this when I address an audience . . . constantly watching the audience and pulling out different “stops” as needed.
Thank you, Mike, for encouraging me and teaching me to develop my own unique style.
In the summer of 1983 I was hired by Merrill Lynch Realty Associates to be their National Training Director. Mike Lurie was my boss, and my first experience with management at a large corporation. Being raised in an entrepreneurial environment with Ralph Burnet, I was concerned about the change to a more structured job. As it turns out, structure was the exact lesson I needed in my career growth and Mike was just the one to provide it.
Up until now I was in charge of one training department in which I could make the decisions by myself. Now I was the head of a corporate division responsible for organizing the national training program and creating a network of 33 training directors across the U.S. I had to learn the skills of budgeting, managing, setting objectives and making decisions within a team of other managers and trainers.
I was pleased to discover that Mike was a true gentleman: fair, honest and organized. He demonstrated a great management style and taught me all of the required skills. After leaving Merrill Lynch and starting my own company, I was grateful to have had this background of corporate discipline.
In September of 2001 I knew he worked in one of the buildings in the World Trade Center complex. Thankfully, on 9/11 he hadn’t made it the last few blocks to his office. I recently visited his new office there and we had fun reminiscing of our days of working together. Over lunch I thanked him again for being a great leader and teacher to me.
Thank you, Mike, for teaching me fairness, discipline and structure.
Wayne Dyer is the author of many books on self improvement. I included one of his books, “Your Erroneous Zones”, as a reading assignment in my training programs.
He asked a question that caused me to think about self esteem and approval. He asked me to think of some of whom I approved, someone who I admired, respected and who had my approval. Then he asked, “What did they do to get your approval?” The answer: they did nothing to try to get my approval. They merely lived their lives their own way without concern whether people approved of them. This revelation was important to me because, as a new trainer, I had sought the approval of others.
In 1990 I had the pleasure of working with him at the Colorado Realtors® Convention in Keystone, CO. On July 24, 1990 I was in Maui, HI running an instructor development workshop for the CRS instructors, but had been unable to book a speaker for this event. Upon landing in Maui I heard that Dr. Wayne Dyer was on the island. Hmm, I thought. I wonder if I could find him and ask him to speak with us.
Well, on that afternoon I was on a call in the hotel phone booth. I heard a familiar voice next to me. It was Wayne Dyer! I re-introduced myself to him and invited him to speak to the CRS instructors. He cheerfully chose to interrupt his vacation to help our event, demonstrating the importance of giving to the people who need your help.
To this day, he remains one of the best speakers who has addressed this group. We all continue to be inspired by his writings. Thank you, Dr. Dyer.
In 1987, when I finally left Merrill Lynch Realty to start my own business, one of the first people I called was Danielle Kennedy. To me she was the female Tom Hopkins. She was articulate, polished, funny and entertaining. I always enjoyed her presentations and respected her professionalism. She was gracious whenever we met and always remembered who I was.
When I called her to ask for her help with my speaking career, she immediately invited me to visit her organization where her husband, Mike Craig, spent a day with me showing how they ran their business. He let me see his promotional items, confirmation package, product development and all the things they did to run their business.
When I joined the National Speakers Association (NSA), Danielle immediately took me aside to teach me about the organization. I remember her first advice: “You know how at NAR you look for speakers instead of topics? Well that’s what you have to do here too.” Then she circled all the good speakers that I should hear at that particular NSA convention.
Years later I was a presenter at an NSA convention and was honored to have her introduce me. Going from audience member watching her speak, to having her introduce me to an audience was a fun journey.
Over the years we have become good friends and enjoyed many visits. I appreciate all the advice and counsel on speaking and running my business. Thank you, Danielle and Mike.
Dave Liniger started his career about the same time I started mine. Our paths shared some similar turns and mutual mentors, but it wasn’t until 1990 that our paths crossed.
I was invited to be the closing speaker at the 1990 RE/MAX convention in Orlando, FL. This closing spot was the second most honorable slot next to Dave’s opening slot. I still remember the telephone call inviting me to participate, and to this day it is my most memorable career highlight to have received a standing ovation from 4,000 real estate agents. It was at this convention that I met Dave and could see in his personality the spark that built his company.
At each successive convention I got to know him a little better. He would include me in dinners and invite me back stage at events to meet the corporate family and other presenters. We discovered our mutual interest in car racing he in NASCAR and I in SCCA. I was the only one allowed to sit in the race car he had on display and I considered that to be a real honor. While giving a seminar in Colorado, Dave invited me to Pikes Peak race track where he was testing his cars for the upcoming race. He gave me and my wife a very fast ride in his street car around the track.
In 1994 he started RSN, Remax Satellite Network, to deliver training to his offices. I was honored to be invited to be one of its first speakers. When we discussed the viability he said: “I don’t know the answers yet because I don’t even know the questions!” This is where I learned a valuable lesson. Believe in the goal and the answers will reveal themselves. Today the network is one of his most successful ventures.
When I was hospitalized from a snowmobile crash, he and the RE/MAX team were the first to sent cards and letters of well wishes.
I am grateful for the day he invited me to join him for a tour of his Wildlife Experience museum, race shop and Sanctuary golf course that he uses to raise money for charity. He ended the day with a golf cart race against me on a dark night through the golf course sprinklers!
There are those who only see his public side. They will see his NASCAR racing, world record attempt at balloon racing or his outgoing personality. I have had the privilege to see his private side as an honorable gentleman who has helped me in times of challenge, a philanthropist who quietly donates his time and resources to those in need and a business man who cares deeply about his employees and agents.
Dave has been a valued friend and client for many years. Thank you, Dave.
Thom Winninger is the past President of the National Speakers Association (NSA) and the recipient of the prestigious CPAE award. I first met him when he was speaking at a Realtor® event in Minneapolis. I was taken with his strong content and humorous delivery. I thought that this is a guy who could be a mentor to me sometime. I saw him speak at other real estate events over the years.
In 1995 I joined NSA and connected with him again. He took me under his wing and taught me everything he’d learned about the speaking business. He helped me with topic development, business planning and marketing. His depth of knowledge on this business is endless and he offers sage advice whenever I need
Early in my career I was at a critical juncture: should I branch out into general sales or stay in the real estate industry. This was a major decision for me so I called Thom for advice. We had a long lunch over which he presented the challenges and time required when he moved into general sales. My conclusion was that it would cost me five years to make the move and I would gain very little. I was known in the real estate industry, I enjoyed what I was doing and all my product development skill was in real estate training products.
Thank you, Thom, for keeping me on track.
Mike has always been a training icon in the real estate industry and I was pleased to have many opportunities to work events together and visit over lunches.
In January 1997, over a lunch in San Diego, I was sharing the challenges I faced on many of my events. After spending months securing the event then developing the presentation and marketing the event, some problem out of my control would interfere with its success.
Mike described a similar challenge in his early years about flying across the country and driving through a snow storm only to have the event canceled when he arrived. From that experience he learned the importance of controlling his events. I too learned the importance of getting more involved in the planning and promotion of events. Because of that advice, my company begins helping clients with event management, promotion, setup and topic development right down to the chair count and placement on the morning of the event.
Mike was also instrumental in inspiring me to think bigger when I planned the future of my business. He gave me advice on creating a following and developing products. Thank you for your help, Mike.