Thoughts on Leadership: Altruism and Tragedy

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me first in San Diego for the 2017 AREAA National Convention. The conference focused on how real estate can better serve buyers and sellers of diverse backgrounds and I was honored to participate in a panel discussion about the Fair Housing Act, created to ensure homeownership for all. The onstage dialogue was detailed and thoughtful, meant to get to the core of the Fair Housing issue and figure out how we can create a better way to protect renters and buyers from unlawful discrimination.

Next, my itinerary would’ve taken me to Las Vegas for the Zillow Group Broker Forum. The event is invite-only and happens each year, bringing together the nation’s largest brokers to meet with Zillow Group executives and industry leaders to share ideas about trends in real estate. It would’ve been enlightening and informative, I’m sure, but Monday morning I received an email the event was cancelled, and the cancellation was of course the right thing to do.

As you know, Sunday night marked the largest mass shooting in our nation’s history and on behalf of our organization, my thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by the awful tragedy in Las Vegas. This entire week has felt expectedly heavy on our hearts as the country mourns great losses, consoles and slowly, somehow attempts to heal.  

It’s incredible to me that while our world turns ever-tech—more connected, more digital—that when true darkness falls, we find bright spots not in the light from our cell phones but in the lights of those shining, valiant leaders who step up amid tragedy and show unyielding compassion, bravery and poise. We’re not defined by the technology we possess but by the character we display, and stories about the incredible heroes of the Las Vegas shooting prove that fact now more than ever before. I just read an article about the police officers who willingly put themselves in harm’s way by entering a hotel with reports of an active, heavily armed shooter inside. Now that’s leadership and heroism at its finest.

The idea of the unselfishness of people is actually one that is central to our industry. When you think about the essence of real estate, we are not really in the business of buying and selling homes, we are in the business of helping others. We assist buyers, we assist sellers; we help people and always will. Those interested can contribute to the Las Vegas Victims’ Fund here.

So what’s the message? This week, I’ll keep it short because the focus must remain on the fallen and wounded in Las Vegas. But as I said, there is goodness that can be derived from such tragic horror and it’s found in the unwavering selflessness of people ready to help those in need.

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


Allan Dalton Named as COO of Real Living Real Estate Brokerage Franchise Network

HSF Affiliates LLC, which operates the real estate brokerage franchise networks Real Living Real Estate, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices and Prudential Real Estate, announced the appointment of Allan Dalton as chief operating officer at Real Living. Dalton, reporting to network president Bob McAdams, will oversee franchise sales and, with McAdams and the team, is working to reposition Real Living for long-term growth. He will remain as a special consultant to Gino Blefari, president and CEO of HSF Affiliates.

Dalton has served HSF Affiliates in a consulting role for two years. Working with McAdams and the Real Living team, he is re-engineering Real Living to offer maximum branding flexibility for franchisees. This will enable new brokerages to retain more of their local identity when they join the network, such as incorporating their existing logos and brand identity with the familiar Real Living markings and tagline, “A Real Living Network Member.” It will also help the brand to attract more independent brokerages that want brand support and resources without compromising their unique brand identity, and will establish Real Living’s new direction, “The Leader in Customized Real Estate.” The brand transformation will be introduced later in the fall.

“Allan knows the real estate business from so many angles – he’s a true asset,” said Gino Blefari, president and CEO of HSF Affiliates. “His energy and ideas are already shaping our Real Living network and value proposition.”

Dalton brings a wealth of real estate experience to his position. He is the former CEO of realtor.com and past president and co-owner of a 32-office Regional Brokerage – Murphy Realty Better Homes and Gardens. He was also named by the National Association of REALTORS as one of the real estate industry’s 25 most influential thought leaders.

“Real Living has developed many exceptional programs and services and Allan will help us better communicate Real Living’s value within our network and to consumers and prospective franchisees.”

Dalton, a former draft pick of the NBA’s Boston Celtics, brings with him deep branding and franchising experience. While growing Murphy Realty, he was credited with creating the Better Homes and Gardens Pacesetter networking group, and co-created its business-to-consumer marketing systems. As a consultant to Cendant (now Realogy), Dalton co-created national marketing systems for NRT, Coldwell Banker, Century 21 and ERA.

Dalton, author of several books on real estate, is a former SVP for NRT, president of Prominent Properties Sotheby’s International Realty and chief marketing officer of RISMedia. He is also a sought-after public speaker for the real estate industry.

Such experience, leadership and industry-wide respect will help Real Living blossom in the months and years ahead, said Blefari. “Allan possesses a remarkable ability to construct, package and present a real estate value proposition,” he explained. “Real Living has developed many exceptional programs and services and Allan will help us better communicate Real Living’s value within our network and to consumers and prospective franchisees.”

McAdams said Dalton is an ideal fit for the brokerage franchise network. “I worked directly with Allan the past several months to reposition Real Living,” he said. “The experience was terrific and made it clear we needed Allan to help us grow the network as ‘The Leader in Customized Real Estate.’ Of course, Allan’s knowledge of the industry, of consumers and of the web and emerging technologies will help us in our ongoing strategies and planning.”

Dalton said he’s excited to join HSF Affiliates and the Real Living brand. “Real Living has attracted a legion of fiercely loyal brokers and associates who possess a deep connection to the brand and to one another,” he explained. “Their integrity, independence and optimism make it inspiring to work with them and for them.

“Of course, having the full support of Gino Blefari and the broader HSF Affiliates team bodes extremely well for the long-term growth prospects Bob and I see for the Real Living Real Estate network,” Dalton added.


Thoughts on Leadership: Real Estate and Legislation

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in Washington, D.C. for the National Association of REALTORS® RES Advisory Group Meeting and next in San Diego to attend the 2017 AREAA National Convention (but more on that next week). I’ve long embraced the virtues of our industry’s leaders working closely alongside lawmakers to ensure not only the synergy of current legislation with our business practices but also to ensure our nation’s laws promote and encourage homeownership for all.

The meeting kicked off Wednesday at the Treasury Department with a presentation from Drew Maloney, Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs, Treasury. We were also joined that evening by Senator Isakson (R-GA), Congressman Sherman (D-CA) and Congressman Rothfus (R-PA).

As pure coincidence, on the day RES began, the brand-new Tax Reform Framework was released, called “The American Model for Global Competitiveness.” The main purpose of the reform, as stated in the document is to put “America on a level international playing field and [put] an end to the incentives for shipping jobs overseas.”

Maloney fielded questions from our group about this new Framework and how it affects the real estate industry. NAR released the following about where the association stands on tax reform: “Our current tax system is too complex, and tax reform should simplify it. However, tax reform must not discard the features of the system that provide the bedrock for homeownership in America.”

After the Q&A, I was fortunate enough to spend some time with Senator Isakson and was impressed, as always, by his strong and consistent advocacy of the real estate industry. If you didn’t know, he’s one of us. Isakson, along with being a prominent political figure, is also a successful businessman with more than 40 years of experience as a broker for family-owned Northside Realty. In addition, he holds the distinction of being the only Georgian ever to get elected to the state House, state Senate, U.S. House and U.S. Senate. Last year he broke yet another record as the first Georgian Republican to ever get elected for a third term to the U.S. Senate. Now that’s an impressive and well-respected leader!

This Thursday morning, Rei Mesa, 2017 RES Chair called the meeting to order and next we received an update from NAR CEO Bob Goldberg, who was grilled with some tough questions and handled them all with characteristic intelligence and poise. Kudos to Ron Peltier and Lennox Scott who were very direct with Bob on how NAR can improve its support of real estate professionals.

After, Lawrence Yun, NAR Senior Vice President of Research, provided a housing and market update, followed by Jennifer Barnard, FBI Headquarters, Supervisory Special Agent, who spoke about the perils of wire fraud and what we can do as an industry to prevent this persistent problem. Katie Johnson, NAR Senior Vice President and General Counsel, finished up the day with a legal presentation.

Some additional notable priorities for the RES Meeting included:

  • Educate the REALTOR® community about data security and cybercrimes related to real estate transactions
  • Protect the Mortgage Interest Deduction
  • Support Upstream implementation
  • Improve down payment savings options for first time home buyers

… And more.

So, what’s the message? The one, huge takeaway from my time spent in Washington, D.C. is the importance of staying informed, staying connected to our legislative leaders and staying educated on what’s happening in government and how these changes affect our industry. A good place to start would be here, researching NAR’s official stance on tax reform. Whether or not you agree with the position taken, it’s important as a leader to have an opinion that’s researched, strategic and informed. The best leaders are those ones who don’t just say what they want but also exactly why they want it. Take heed from this RES group, filled with busy and important leaders who no matter what give up their time to attend because they understand the significance of making their voice heard in such an impactful setting as our nation’s capital.

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


Thoughts on Leadership: Clear Your Mind

By Gino Blefari

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

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

I actually enjoy time off—the hours before the work day starts, the weekends—because they’re opportunities to examine yourself and create a better you with a clear head. As I say, do stuff for yourself in the morning and things for everyone else in the afternoon. Why? Because you have a much greater chance of getting them done in the morning and less of a chance in the afternoon when interruptions often come up. In the morning, you can really focus on what’s working and what’s not working without the whirlwind of your daily activities pulling your thoughts in other directions. On weekends, on late nights and during those early morning hours, you can sit somewhere quiet and THINK. (Did you know Apple CEO Tim Cook gets up every day at 3:45 a.m.? Or that Xerox CEO Ursula Burns wakes at 5:15 a.m. for a workout?  Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey wakes up before the sun rises for a 6-mile run. I’d argue there’s a direct correlation between utilizing downtime and the success of your leadership.)

Every Saturday I ask myself this question: What am I doing in the upcoming week to improve so that I’m better than I was the week before?

This past weekend I was talking with my friend, David Bergman, during our weekly book club meeting. David was coughing so I asked what was wrong. “Dave, are you still not over that cold?” I said, because the week before he had been sick. “I am,” he told me, “I just ordered a mocha and I’m pretty sure I’m allergic to dairy.”

Right then I resolved to eliminate dairy from my coffee. It was a small discipline, a small change as a result of speaking with Dave but it will allow me to be a better version of myself in the weeks and months ahead.

In fact, here’s a change-oriented practice I employ from Peter Bregman’s book, 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done: Set your alarm clock or phone to go off every hour during the day … that’s eight 1-minute check-ins. When the clock goes off, it’s your reminder to pause, reflect, recharge, recalibrate and refocus.

So, what’s the message? If you find yourself with a stretch of time where you can relax, make sure you use it as an opportunity to contemplate the current state of your mind and body. Make a small change to better your health, shift your mindset toward even greater positivity, think about ways you can be more productive in the week ahead. I promise you, when you next sit down to work, you’ll be glad you made good use of your time off.

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


Thoughts on Leadership: A Time for Change

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in New York City, in particular at the prestigious Harvard Club for RISMedia’s Real Estate CEO Exchange, which brings together more than 225 powerhouse real estate leaders from all brands and all sectors of the industry to strategize on how best to meet the needs of today’s consumer.

I’ve been attending this event for more than 20 years and you might ask yourself why I go back to the same conference year after year … Well, here’s why …

First, John Featherston, founder, CEO and publisher of RISMedia and Daryl MacPherson, RISMedia’s executive vice president, do a consistently great job organizing and hosting the event. It’s so clear how much they love this industry and how much they want to have serious, progressive discussions about ways to make it better.

The overwhelming theme during this conference was change. John F. Kennedy once said, “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”

And the agenda for the New York event reflects this very sentiment. Click HERE to browse all the featured speakers.

Ron Peltier, chairman and CEO of HomeServices of America, Inc., kicked off CEO Exchange with a keynote, “State of the Real Estate Union” about the importance of our ability as real estate leaders to adapt to an industry in flux.

Other panel discussions for the day included: “What Keeps You Up at Night? Overcoming Hurdles to Profitability,” and “A Better Crystal Ball: How to Leverage Predictive Analytics.”

On day two, topics included: “Transforming the Real Estate Transaction in the On-Demand Economy,” “The Evolution of the Real Estate Mode: Are You Adapting Fast Enough?” “Agent Teams, How to Manage, Maximize and Mitigate Risk,” “Averting Disaster: The Top 3 Risks to Your Brokerage and How to Avoid Them” and “The Verdict is In: Agent Loyalty is Out – Now What?”

As you can see, the panels didn’t shy away from some very difficult and even uncomfortable issues. But in truth, there’s no way to create lasting change without digging deep into plaguing problems, focusing on the challenges, sharing potential solutions, determining a plan and of course, executing.

So, what’s the message? It’s undoubtedly about change but it’s also about John and Daryl’s ability to recognize that change needs to be made. They’re real estate leaders who genuinely have great relationships with so many brokers in our industry, across all brands, across companies large and small, and use those relationships to bring leaders together. They’re also constantly giving new real estate leaders a chance to share their ideas because they’re often the ones at the forefront of change and have the nimbleness to implement it quickly. Still, John and Daryl recognize the weight and worthiness of decades-experienced brokers. The answers to our most persistent problems, I believe, come from combining the ideas of both groups. As JFK said, “Hold fast to the best of the past and move fast to the best of the future.”

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


Real Living Real Estate Sales Professional Named REALTOR® Emeritus

In the Constitution of the National Association of REALTORS®, a special class is designated for REALTOR® members who have held membership in the Association for a cumulative period of forty (40) years.  In addition, members must have shown a commitment to the REALTOR® Association through at least one year of service to their local, state, or national Association.  Those who have achieved this status, are called REALTOR® Emeritus.
Achieving this status is about more than just numbers, sales, awards, years, or statistics. It is about the many colleagues whose lives Messina has touched, the team he’s put together and the people who he’s supported along the way.  This award is a testament to all the lives he’s changed, the relationships he’s build and the homes he’s brought to so many families in his community. Congratulations from all of us at Real Living Real Estate!
[Picture above: Frank Messina, with Real Living Messina & Associates in Duluth, MN, was granted the status of REALTOR® Emeritus at the National Association of REALTORS® Board of Directors meeting.]

Thoughts on Leadership: Leading Through the Storm

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in Northern California, where I’ve been keeping close tabs on the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey. I’ve received numerous phone calls, made quite a few myself, emailed network members, and read your emails in return, which detail not only the destructive aftermath of the storm but also the inspiring courage of volunteers who are stepping up from all parts of the country to help where help is needed. Small boats, military Humvees … these heroes are deploying whatever it takes to bring those in harm’s way to safety.

It could be a whole post—or even a book—to explain why the worst situations bring out our very best but it’s certainly worthwhile to examine Hurricane Harvey through the lens of leadership. When disaster strikes, we look to leaders to provide strength, inspire hope, and guide us through hardship toward recovery and ultimately, some kind of resolution.

When I think of leaders who have battled resounding tragedy, I think of Rudy Giuliani, mayor of New York City during the 9/11 attacks. His ability to be compassionate and calm yet realistic and candid imbued Manhattan—and the United States—with much-needed brightness during one of America’s darkest days.

I think also of Captain Edward John Smith, most famous for steering the RMS Titanic, who went down with the ship when it struck an iceberg and sank on April 15, 1912. The British Merchant Navy officer is remembered fondly for his stoicism in the face of utter tragedy on the high seas. Crew members recalled his formidable figure standing tall on the ship’s bridge, megaphone in hand, assisting with the evacuation of passengers onto life boats, knowing not all would survive and knowing he would most likely die.

Another example of leadership amid crisis can be seen in Mary Barra, GM’s first female CEO. In 2014, Barra—who had been an electrical engineer at GM for more than 30 years—was only two months into her new role when news broke that GM put more than 1.7 million cars on the road that had an ignition-switch defect responsible for dozens of deaths. The development was an awful blow to one of the world’s largest automakers and Barra didn’t shy away from blame. Instead, she addressed the harrowing ordeal with a solemn and earnest video apology. “Something went very wrong,” she said, “And terrible things happened.”

A 2007 article that ran in The New York Times said this about leadership and disaster: “In times of consuming trauma, psychologists and historians say, a leader must speak with a trusted voice and sketch honestly the painful steps to safety. A leader must weave a narrative of shared loss while acknowledging consuming anger.”

It’s been estimated that more than 30,000 people have been displaced just in Texas alone, and hours ago Harvey threatened the region again with relentless new waves of rain. The images we see on the ground are a heartbreaking reminder that now more than ever leaders are needed to do what we do best … lead.

So, what’s the message? Leadership exists on a continuum and its core tenets of resilience, determination and strategic planning then execution must be present as evidently in the lowest valleys of leadership as they are at the highest peaks. When catastrophe strikes like it did recently for the victims of Hurricane Harvey, a leader must balance sympathy with strength, feel the tense emotional pull of the situation and lead with rationality and clear-mindedness, just as the network professionals who shared their volunteer stories with me have done. It’s never an easy or simple thing to do but then again, what act of courage ever is?

If you’d like to contribute funds to those affected by Hurricane Harvey, the following organizations are currently collecting donations:

REALTOR® Relief Foundation

American Red Cross

I ask now that you keep those affected by the storm in your thoughts and prayers.

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


VIDEO // Real Living Casa Fina Realty Experiences Massive Success

Nick Parrinello, broker/owner at Real Living Casa Fina Realty in Tampa, FL, explains how he’s able to grow his brokerage under the Real Living brand in this new YouTube video. Parrinello took over ownership of the brokerage more than two years ago – when the firm was selling about 100-130 homes per year with 15 agents – this week, Casa Fina Realty hired its 40th agent and is on pace to sell more than 300 homes in 2017. Under Parrinello’s leadership, the brokerage has grown all aspects of the business, including sales volume, agent count and per person productivity.

Watch as Parrinello explains the factors responsible for this success.


Thoughts on Leadership: Business Plan Now

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in Northern California, taking meetings, organizing calls and just this morning, leading a teleconference with Debbie De Grote, founder/CEO of Excelleum Coaching & Consulting all about business planning. For all of us, a business plan is vital because even as an agent we must think of ourselves as a business, and all businesses must have a plan. Remember the wise words of Benjamin Franklin: “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”

Some may think it’s strange though to have a business-planning call at the end of August but there’s a reason for this exact timing. During my 30+ years in the real estate business—as an agent, a manager and an owner of a company—I’ve always found that there’s a cash flow problem in the months of January and February. This applies to agents as much as it does to owners.

Why? Because real estate operates on a 90-day cycle, so what we do 90 days before gets paid out 90 days later. This means a lag in business during the fall months will show up in Q1 of the new year. The lag is understandable, though avoidable; it’s obvious to notice right after Halloween a great number of agents go into hibernation. There’s Thanksgiving, the holidays … life gets busy and business gets put on the back burner. (Extrapolate those 90 days during this lull and you’ll understand clearly why cash-flow problems plague us in January and February.)

To get you started, access our Business Planning Essentials by clicking HERE

Starting now, I want us to no longer think of Jan. 1 as the beginning of the new year. Our new start? Oct. 1. If we assume Oct. 1 is the “new” New Year, then we have to take the month of September to complete our business plan by that date.

As a small aside, it may seem early but now is a great time to organize the holiday cards you’ll send out, to arrange for a family photo shoot, to make sure you handwrite those messages (if possible) for your prospective and current clients. You want your holiday card to be in the mail on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving so when that Friday hits and everyone is shopping and home with family, yours is the first card they receive. (As a tip, make sure it has your photo and/or a family photo on it so they’ll be more likely to keep it.)

Another very important aspect of your business plan is to schedule your calendar for the entire year. The first thing to schedule is your vacation, days off—anything that will give you balance. This will ensure that it actually happens and you don’t schedule meetings or calls during the time when you’re supposed to be off.

So, what’s the message? First, if you haven’t already, click HERE to download the Business Planning Essentials document. Then make a promise to dedicate the entire month of September to complete your plan and have it polished, finished and ready to go on Oct. 1. But this timing shouldn’t just be applied now; you should for the rest of your career use this as a framework to build and grow your business. Each year, pledge to complete your business plan by Oct. 1 and then, when everyone else isn’t working or scrambling to business plan over the holidays, you’ll be way ahead of the game.

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


Thoughts on Leadership: 11 Days of Travel

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me on the final day of 11 days of straight travel, which is unusual for me because I’m typically home on the weekends. However, this week-and-a-half business adventure has certainly been worthwhile and I’d like to recap some of the highlights for you now …

I started out at the Housing Renaissance, held at the Grand Del Mar resort in San Diego. The mission of the event is to gather top housing industry thought leaders, high-level executives, policy makers and leading entrepreneurs in order to discuss how best to create sustainable homeownership in the housing industry and how we can better serve a diverse housing market.

Phil Bracken (chief policy offer of government and industry relations at Radian Guaranty), Gary Acosta, (co-founder and CEO of NAHREP), and Jim Park, (partner at The Mortgage Collaborative), at the awards ceremony during the Housing Renaissance event.

I have to say, the crowd at the Housing Renaissance was impressive; the room was filled with many well-credentialed people, including event organizers Gary Acosta (co-founder and CEO of NAHREP), Phil Bracken (chief policy officer of government and industry relations at Radian Guaranty) and Jim Park (partner at The Mortgage Collaborative and board member emeritus at AREAA). Other notable guests were Henry Cisneros, CEO of City Viery, Nicolas Retsinas, senior lecturer at Harvard Business School, Brad Blackwell, EVP at Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, Barrett Burns, CEO at VantageScore Solutions LLC, David Kittle, CMB, vice chairman and president at The Mortgage Collaborative, Shawn Krause, EVP at Quicken Loans and Barry Zigas, director of housing policy at the Consumer Federation of America. All in all, conference attendees proved a thought-provoking mix of real estate leaders and Washington D.C. policymakers, which, when brought together, is a recipe for actionable change.

At the Buffini & Company MasterMind Summit with Brian Buffini, chairman and founder of Buffini & Company.

From San Diego I went to Brian Buffini’s MasterMind Summit, a conference that not only delivers with consistent information year after year but also features some of the most unbelievable speakers. This year, Mitch Albom, author of the beloved book, Tuesdays with Morrie, spoke to the crowd and shared his story of success, which began in New Jersey, where he grew up and taught himself to play piano. It would be years and years later that he became one of Detroit’s most well-known sports media figures and after that a best-selling author. And, as if the keynotes couldn’t get any better, Olympic Gold Medalist Scott Hamilton next took to the stage, and shared his life’s story, too.  The retired American figure skater (he won four consecutive U.S. Championships, four consecutive World Championships and a gold medal in the 1984 Olympics), told his tale about growing up as a small, sickly child and how he’s battled cancer over and over again and still came out skating. His resilience, mental and physical toughness and ability to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles moved the entire crowd and you couldn’t help but feel every emotion as he so candidly and bravely shared his tale with us.

From one great event to the next … after MasterMind Summit it was off to my good friend and real estate coach Tom Ferry’s Success Summit in Las Vegas. As it does each year, this conference also proved incredibly inspirational and covered topics as wide-ranging as Google consumer trends, Facebook marketing, business models of the future, off-market listings, mega open houses and behaviors to embrace for success and mental toughness. I sat with about 4,000 to 5,000 agents in the room and as I listened to the wealth of information being doled from the stage had one thought: I’ve known Tom Ferry since he was 19 years old and to see him evolve from a scrappy teenager to a successful, intuitive, bright business man is just an awesome thing. In fact that brings me to my main message …

 

So, what is the message? As I thought about the best way to wrap up this 11-day business trip in some kind of a blog-post bow, I was cruising down Interstate 280, going a comfortable 65 miles per hour when I noticed, despite the open roads, the off-ramp to De Anza Blvd., where the Apple Headquarters are located, was backed up for almost a mile. It makes sense, of course, that the exit to Apple HQ should be so crowded; it’s a huge, successful, growing company and one of the world’s most innovative tech brands. But really, the success comes from the people, those employees in the cars on their way to their Apple jobs, about to change the world with whatever it is they’re working on that day. And that idea of people, of the quality and ability of people to change lives, is really what I took away from my trip. Tom Ferry, Brian Buffini … I’ve known them both for decades and beyond being great in business, they’re terrific in life, the nicest and kindest fathers, husbands, friends and human beings. When I think about it, the highlight reel from my trip doesn’t really include the apps I learned about or the social media marketing trends I can take back to my teams but the people I met and the stories they shared. Those are the things that changed me and what made a week and a half of constant travel completely worth it.

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