Checklist for a Great Life

Thoughtful business planning can pave the way for professional and personal success.

As is true for many of us in this profession, real estate was not my first career. I owned several retail electronics stores in Oklahoma City from 1973 to 1989, when the oil glut took its final toll on many businesses, including mine.

My fresh start in real estate looked enticingly easy compared to juggling all the facets of a retail operation. I closed my first HUD-owned home sale in January 1990. Considering I was dead broke, the $450 commission check represented the biggest percentage one-day jump in my net worth ever. After 45 more closings that year, I knew I was on the right path.

Charlene and I have always emphasized discipline and planning in our work and our lives. We believe in checklists, so this issue of the magazine—featuring 28 lists of tips and tactics to help you work smarter and reach your professional goals—is right up our alley. I was pleased to be able to weigh in with a number of ideas. You can read about our “1–7–90 day” philosophy, as well as the healthy habits we’ve incorporated into our routine.

What was game-changing for me professionally and personally was a cancer diagnosis in 2008, just when the scope of the latest real estate meltdown was becoming undeniable. After a year of exhausting treatment, I viewed the real estate business through a new lens of gratitude and empathy. Charlene and I became committed to following a formal vision statement that emphasized the positive culture we wanted to work in and the core values that would help us meet the needs of clients. We began to outsource all tasks that did not involve our direct interactions with clients, from database management to the creation of economic and demographic reports. We have found solutions to an array of business problems by following the Franciscan principle known as Occam’s razor, which boils down to selecting the simplest solution when you are presented with various competing options.

Today I run my own brokerage, the Virtual Real Estate Team, with my wife and co-broker, Charlene. We’re on track to close $32 million in sales this year with a focus on investment properties. We’re proud of the solid relationships we have maintained with clients that have helped them achieve financial security.

For us, success isn’t just about the bottom line; it’s about having the time and resources to marvel at the mountains or stand in awe of the Sistine Chapel. It is also about waking every day with a passion for service and a love of what we do.

The author Pico Iyer says it best: “Making a great living is not the same thing as making a life.” For me, every day is a bonus, every dream can become a reality, and service to others is a “selfish pleasure.” At the age of 68, I see an industry that puts no limits on you but also requires a great deal of responsibility. That means harnessing your vision in the form of checklists, daily rituals, and habits that strengthen mind, body, and spirit.  I hope this magazine can play a small role.