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Two years into an analyst’s job at IBM, Fu knew he’d made a mistake. “The highlight of my day was a conference call, where I actually got to talk to people,” says Fu. Walking away from the lucrative job was tough, but Fu wanted more tangible results. “In [real estate], you know you’ve impacted someone’s life,” he says. 

HERE’S LOOKING AT FU: He leveraged his unusual last name into a brand, hiring a graphic designer to create a memorable “Fu” logo. He used his research skills to delve into Chicago’s myriad neighborhoods, identifying one that appeared underserved. He flooded that market with advertising emblazoned with the new logo, and quickly became the area’s No. 1 listing agent, with $11 million in sales last year on 30 transaction sides and a list-to-sale ratio of 97 percent.