No matter who you are or where you come from, there are seven steps that can always lead you to success. No special connections and no entitlements necessary—just follow these steps consistently and reap the rewards.
This was the powerful message HSF Affiliates CEO Gino Blefari shared with the audience of some 250 power brokers and industry leaders during his opening address on Day 2 of RISMedia’s Real Estate CEO Exchange, held at the Harvard Club New York City last week.
Blefari developed the seven principles based on his personal journey to success. Relating the story of his modest upbringing in a working-class Italian family, Blefari shared how a nascent work ethic drove him to water lawns at the age of 15, put himself through San Jose State University by working at a local golf club, and then become the course superintendent and bar manager upon graduation.
Soon after taking a job in construction with the developer who bought the golf club to build homes, Blefari had what he described as a “defining moment.”
“I liked hard work, but it didn’t feel fulfilling,” said Blefari. “I had a defining moment when a brand new BMW drives up and a guy gets out all dressed up. He was the person selling the houses that we were building. I identified with his persona—the old ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’—and I signed up to get my real estate license.”
As a brand new agent, Blefari was surrounded by many veterans who knew a lot more about real estate than he did. But this did not deter him. “No one would out-work me, out-study me or out-prepare me.”
It was this drive and focus that helped launch Blefari’s storied real estate career, including his development of Contempo Real Estate, its sale to Realogy, his position with NRT, his founding of Intero Real Estate and finally, his current status as CEO of HSF Affiliates LLC.
“All of this happened along the way with no special connections and no entitlements,” he emphasized. “I went from neighborhood golf course guy to CEO.”
Blefari believes that the secret to his success—and anyone’s success in any field—is committing to following these seven principles:
- Play full out. “You’ve got to want it more than anything or anyone,” said Blefari. “If you’re interested in being good, do what’s convenient. If you’re committed to being successful, you do whatever it takes.”
- Have a good morning routine. “Start out with something positive in your head,” Belfari advised. “Your brain is in an alpha state in the morning and anything that goes in at that time tends to stay in your head all day.” That’s why Blefari never skips his morning MEDS: meditate, exercise, diet and sleep. “These are keystone habits that create small wins.”
- Be humble. Laugh, have fun and don’t take yourself too seriously, said Blefari. “Smugness comes from arrogance and arrogance leads to mediocrity. Pride comes before the fall.”
- Build a great team. “I love what I do because of who I work with,” said Blefari. While in basketball, we tend to think it’s all about the player who makes the basket; Blefari believes it’s all about the player who makes the assist. “It doesn’t matter who makes the basket, but who wins the game.”
- Provide extraordinary service. “Never compete on price because it’s the easiest thing to duplicate.”
- Blefari encourages everyone to read something about their field each day. “I listen to some type of book every day,” he said. “It helps you get new eyes—new eyes see old things in different ways.”
- Continuous improvement. “When you’re through changing, you’re through,” said Blefari. “A stationery position is the beginning of the end. If you cease to grow even a little, you start to get smaller.”
During his presentation, Blefari also emphasized the importance of having a well-defined management and leadership philosophy that challenges everyone to succeed and grow. “The challenge creates the muscle—mental, vocal and physical,” he explained.
Every profitable real estate firm also has a specific system in place for success, said Blefari, who outlined his four disciplines of execution for the CEO Exchange audience:
- Focus on wildly important goals (WIGs). Blefari advises focusing on 2-3 WIGs at a time, and to create a distinct finish line for reaching each goal.
- Act on the lead measures as opposed to lag measure. “We tend to focus on lag measures, such as how many sales we made last month. But you can’t do anything about that. Lead measures are predictive and influenceable—‘if you do this performance, you’ll get this result’,” he explained.
- Keep a compelling scoreboard so that every person on the team clearly knows where they stand at all times. “If you can’t tell if you’re winning or losing within five seconds, it’s too complicated.”
- Create a cadence of accountability. Blefari religiously hosts a once-per-week call where the team reports on accomplishments and challenges. “Have it the same time, the same day every week,” he advised.
Blefari closed out the session by encouraging the audience to stick with the seven principles for success—especially if there’s a market change—and to never lose touch with our roots.
“The most successful big companies never forget where they came from,” said Blefari. “They continue to act like a small company—nimble, fast moving, and with fire in the belly.”