In 1965, after spending nearly three years stationed in Alaska as First Lieutenant, Artillery with the United States Army, Tom Grizzard moved home to Florida and helped his father, who was in commercial real estate, to manage his newly developed mobile home community. After managing and selling mobile homes for a few years without getting paid, Grizzard set out to earn his real estate license and worked as an agent for one year before becoming a broker and opening his own business.
Fast-forward to 1974 when Grizzard, a one-man-show, graduated from working out of an old boat house to opening an office in the parking lot of a Leesburg, Fla. Holiday Inn. As Holiday Inn patrons continued to walk into the office and inquire about homes, Grizzard’s business built momentum, enabling him to hire a few agents.
In 1976, ERA sales representative Linda Richards was driving through Leesburg on her way to meet a potential franchisee in Key West and happened upon Grizzard’s office, stopping to introduce herself.
“Back then, franchising was new and I had just heard that the Realty World franchise was going to take over the industry,” recalled Grizzard. “When I met Linda, I was impressed by the use of the fax machine to gain referral business. I signed up with ERA quickly and it was a good decision.”
His business became known as ERA Tom Grizzard Real Estate and from that moment on, Grizzard made a point to contribute to innovation within ERA Real Estate with valuable feedback and remained focused on implementing cutting edge technology – a computerized system and electronic MLS listing system back then – as a way of distinguishing his business from area competitors.
If you have been to ERA events, chances are, you have met Tom Grizzard. He attends every event possible and is known as a great collaborator among the ERA Real Estate family.
“Tom and his wife, Linda, are lovely people,” said broker Michael Harrington, Sr. “Tom offers great advice and I always enjoy catching up with him at ERA events.”
“When ERA introduced the TEAM ERA concept, I thought it was brilliant,” said Grizzard. “That is what we are all about – teamwork. People come to me for advice and I go to them for advice. Collaboration is part of our being and I am always happy to participate in idea sharing.”
With great advice, honesty, integrity and professionalism, Grizzard grew his business into a high-performing, multi-office real estate service. He credits his resilience and support from ERA in helping him weather challenging times in the 1980s, making it through with ERA’s business planning and accounting advice to eventually grow the business again. During that time, ERA was owned by Commercial Credit, which opened the doors for Grizzard to once again embrace commercial real estate – his first love – which further assisted his growth.
With succession planning guidance from ERA and fellow broker, C.J. Dickson, Grizzard brought his son Gus on board to eventually become the owner and broker of record. The company, now known as ERA Grizzard Real Estate, is an award-winning real estate business with seven offices.
“After all the hard work and perseverance, it’s a dream come true,” remarked Grizzard. “We started to really grow when the Villages, a nearby community, began to expand. We a saw a need for real estate professionals there and opened an office. We then acquired a few other offices to continue the growth. Gus was able to find other offices, too, and redirected the company to find more merger and acquisition opportunities and to also work closely with Cartus.”
For fellow brokers seeking to grow their own businesses, Grizzard recommends putting an emphasis on finding the right people for your business, creating a family-style culture and making sure your own house is in order before looking into mergers.
Most evident at ERA networking events is ERA Grizzard Real Estate’s culture. From the time Tom Grizzard began his business up until now, teamwork, honesty and a familial feel have been the cultural basis of his success. Bringing an extension of the TEAM ERA rally cry into his own operation, ERA Grizzard has fun in the office and at ERA events; and they share successes and advice whenever they can. He also advises agents to use every tool and resource offered to them through ERA – leading by example in his own use of business planning and training opportunities.
It is that same resourcefulness that led ERA Tom Grizzard Real Estate to be named a Gene Francis Memorial Award finalist in 2004, 2007 and 2009. And, under the leadership of his son but with the influence of Tom, the company won the prestigious award in both 2010 and 2011 – the first consecutive win for any ERA Real Estate company in this category.
“Winning the Gene Francis award in 2010 was the absolute best moment in my career but not because of the award itself,” said Tom’s son, Gus Grizzard. “My father rushed the stage and gave a huge bear hug. While the award was validation for the hard work we put in that year, it was really a continuation of what he started. I was just a part of it. My father had laid the groundwork and was every bit involved in bringing home the trophy that year. Also, he did a great job of setting me up for this moment. He made me learn the business inside and out and I had to earn that ownership under his leadership. That is a great gift he has given me.”
Now, with his son at the helm and his wife at his side, Tom Grizzard plans to continue what he does best – selling commercial real estate for ERA Grizzard Real Estate. He shares an office and many laughs with wife, Linda, while in his own words; they continue “to work with Gus so he can make enough money to pay us.”
Congratulations to true family man and brand ambassador Tom Grizzard. Thank you for your contributions to ERA Real Estate and your fellow brokers and agents.
This article originally appeared on ERA’s blog, Owning the Fence.