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.

Thoughts on Leadership: Getting Back to Basics

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me first in Irvine at the HSF Affiliates headquarters with a series of meetings and one very special meeting with Gary Vaynerchuk.


With @hsfchrisstuart and my new pal @garyvee in SoCal earlier this week. Pretty awesome day!

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Then it was on to Las Vegas for Mike Ferry’s 2017 Superstar Retreat, a four-day intensive from one of our industry’s finest leaders all about strengthening your mindset, building your skills, increasing your productivity and catapulting profits to the highest level possible—in other words, the basics.

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


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

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


Just as we have spring training in baseball and training camp in football, we must prepare for a successful season ahead and to do that we must remember the basics, the elemental insights that have been proven over decades and centuries to create and foster success. They’re basic because they won’t fail you and they’re basic because the truth is, as Mike Ferry reminded me at this Superstar Retreat, they really work.

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

Thoughts On Leadership: Innovation in Austin

By Gino Blefari

This week’s travels found me in Austin, Texas … and what a place to be! Austin is a booming city overflowing with rich culture, a lively entertainment scene and incredible food. It’s no wonder it boasts one of the highest growth in the country in terms of population and jobs. In fact, according to the latest estimates, Austin adds 159 people per day to its metro-area population.

After spending several days in Austin, I can see why so many people are eager to move there. Fun fact: Whole Foods’ flagship location can be found in downtown Austin and it’s an 8,000-square-foot market unlike any other. The Whole Foods Market Inc. worldwide headquarters is also located in Austin, which practically ensures city dwellers there remain focused on healthy eating. As I always say, a large part of effective leadership is maintaining your energy, which comes from regular exercise and a mindful, nutritious diet. Relatedly, Austin was named by CNBC as a top city for launching a tech startup and has a thriving entrepreneurial community of small businesses and innovative leaders.

Speaking of innovative leaders, I was in town to meet with the Austin Board of REALTORS® (ABoR), an impressive organization led with distinctive forward-mindedness by CEO Paul Hilgers. He’s a great guy and he’s done a super job transforming the association into a modern example of what a real estate advocacy group should be. Even the office, with its sleek, mirrored windows and tall frame, looks the very progressive picture of the members contained inside. And the interior is just as striking with cutting-edge design and panoramic views of the city.

I was honored to deliver my seven principles for success to the team and even shot a few videos talking about real estate and leadership, which are coming out soon. Paul mentioned he was confident his board members and leadership would now be able to achieve their professional goals faster by following these principles, which is the ultimate goal!

While at ABoR, I was joined by my friend, Johnnie Johnson, former All Pro for the Los Angeles Rams and CEO of World Class Coaches, who spoke to a crowd eager to hear from the legendary Texas Longhorn. Johnnie’s company, World Class Coaches, facilitates the Moving Families Initiative, which is fitting to discuss in a place experiencing such rapid growth.

Like the city of Austin itself and the contemporary leadership style of ABoR, Moving Families Initiative is a pioneering program. It’s an international plan focused on serving, protecting, and meeting the needs of parents moving or relocating with children, ages 19 and younger, including the teachers and coaches who work with their children.

So, what’s the message? During my trip to Austin, innovation was all around. From the towering Whole Foods to the incredible ABoR board and staff leadership to the ideas Johnnie detailed about how Moving Families Initiative can help Austin real estate professionals better assistant buyers and sellers. As a leader, it’s important to surround yourself with inspiring people, places and things. Because while it’s true you can always find inspiration within yourself, it’s your surroundings and who you surround yourself with that might just provide the extra motivation, creativity and encouragement you need to achieve your goals.

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

Thursday Thoughts on Leadership: T3 Summit

By Gino Blefari

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


In the green room with @stefan.swanepoel, about to take the stage at T3 Summit!

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

With Stefan Swanepoel, chairman and CEO of Swanepoel T3 Group at Swanepoel T3 Summit!

Posted by Gino Blefari on Thursday, May 4, 2017

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

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

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

Thoughts on Leadership: Learning from Mavericks

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me in Tampa, Florida for the biannual meeting of the Mavericks, a small think tank of CEOs who get together to exchange ideas and foster company growth. It was an inspiring conference, as it always is, and I had four key takeaways from the meeting that I want to share with you now:

1. Openness and transparency are vitally important among leaders.During this meeting, brokerage leaders share numbers from the past year, wins, losses … everything. All the figures were out in the open, readily available for us to assess and review. Why is this so critical? Because transparency fosters trust and creates solutions to problems that are steeped in pure fact. Transparency, I should note, is also craved by your team members. In a digital age when information is readily available at the touch of a tiny screen, all leaders must be transparent with their employees to fully connect and inspire them to grow.

2. Some of the best ideas happen when the meeting ends (or hasn’t started yet).We spent the better part of three days together as a Mavericks team and while our formal meetings were incredibly productive, it was during the breakfast, lunch, dinner breaks and downtime (even on bus trips we took together) that some of the best and most inspiring ideas were formed and shared. In her book, The Creative Brain, Harvard psychologist Shelley Carson has this to say about the flow of ideas:

“Everyone has a built-in censoring system that filters thoughts and stimuli from the outside world before they reach conscious awareness. Learning to loosen up this mental filtering to allow more novel ideas to flow through is one of the biggest challenges for people who don’t think of themselves as creative.”

Taking Dr. Carson’s idea back to the breakfast, lunch and dinner table, we’re in a less heightened state of censorship during the casual times than we would be when sitting in a conference room, therefore our filtering system is less active and the creative ideas can more freely be shared.

3. When it comes to positive change, accountability is key.At every Mavericks meeting, we make sure to have the previous host broker report on the progress made since we made suggestions for his or her brokerage. During this meeting, for instance, a broker/owner shared how his company has grown and advanced. As you know, the fourth discipline in the 4DX system is to “create a cadency of accountability,” because no matter how amazing, creative and innovative your plan or ideas may be, they don’t mean much if they’re not seen through to a successful conclusion.

4. New eyes see old things in new ways.It’s interesting how analyzing both the good and bad at another brokerage can open your own eyes about what’s working or not working at your own. When turn a critical eye toward someone or some business entity, you’re able to more clearly realize what you may be lacking in your own business strategy.

So, what’s the message? When you get together with your peers to create positive change, it’s amazing how quickly you can see results. That’s precisely the reason I encourage everyone to attend the Real Living Connection Annual Sales Convention and all of our events throughout the year; these events all represent opportunities for us to connect but they’re also chances for us to view our own businesses through the lens of others. Attendees are doing things to win business we may not have thought about and they can, in their own ways, expose the weaknesses in our strategies we wouldn’t have otherwise seen. Bottom line: Gathering with peers, collaborating and exchanging ideas—whether it’s in a classroom, conference room or during a coffee break—is really one of the best ways to grow.

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