Have you ever been shot at?
Chances are, unless you’re one of the 20 million+ military veterans in this country, you haven’t.
As a proud Vietnam Veteran, my father has been shot at. Hundreds of times.
In order to pay tribute to our veterans in the industry and to encourage brokers to hire more, we spoke with dozens of veterans and their advocates to see what qualities veterans have that help them excel in real estate.
Here’s what we learned:
1. Veterans Are Trained to Face Their Fears
Let’s face it. One of the biggest obstacles new Realtors have is overcoming their fears of failure and rejection. Calling a random stranger and convincing them to do something is inherently scary for pretty much everyone.
Add in fierce competition and the fact that 99% of the people you call don’t want to talk to you and that fear can become unbearable.
In a military context, overcoming fear is not just about closing more deals. Facing or running from fear can literally be a life or death decision. Training soldiers to overcome fear and act is a core part of all military training.
Here’s former Navy Seal Jocko Willinick on how Seals are taught to face fear:
Fear is normal. Every person feels fear at some point. Step aggressively toward to your fear – that is the step into bravery.
Georgia Real Estate Broker and Attorney Bruce Ailion, who regularly recruits veterans for his team, also values the fearlessness of veterans;
Prospecting is the key to success in real estate. Many people are afraid to pick up the phone or afraid to knock on a door. As one former soldier put it to me discussing FSBO door knocking, “In my former line of work approaching a door might result in gunfire, an angry seller is much easier to deal with.
2. Veterans Learned from the Best
From MIT graduate Robert Mcnamara to Princeton PHD David Patraeus, our nation’s military rewards intelligence and education just as much as hard work and grit.
At every level of any military organization, you can rest assured that the training soldiers recieve was developed, scrutinized, implemented, and then scrutinized again, by some of the smartest and best educated people in the world.
That training, and the mindset it helps soldiers build, is often almost identical to what it takes to succeed as an agent.
Don’t believe me? Here’s former Secretary of Defense Colin Powell’s rules he developed to inspire his soldiers in combat and in life.
General Colin Powell’s 13 Rules of Leadership:
1. It ain’t as bad as you think. It will look better in the morning.
2. Get mad, then get over it.
3. Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your position falls, your ego goes with it.
4. It can be done!
5. Be careful what you choose. You may get it.
6. Don’t let adverse facts stand in the way of a good decision.
7. You can’t make someone else’s choices. You shouldn’t let someone else make yours.
8. Check small things.
9. Share credit.
10. Remain calm. Be kind.
11. Have a vision. Be demanding.
12. Don’t take counsel of your fears or naysayers.
13. Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.See what I mean? Every single one of them applies to real estate. In fact, swap out Colin Powell for Tom Ferry or Gary Keller and these sound like hard won rules for real estate success.
3. Veterans Know How to Lead
If you want to get ahead as a Realtor, effective leadership skills are a must. From leading ISAs and administrative workers to a team of agents, being able to lead separates the good agents from the great agents.
Want to hire agents that will excel in leadership positions? Hire a veteran.
Here’s former Navy Seal Jocko Willinick again on how the Navy Seals thrive on effective leadership:
On any team, in any organization, all responsibility for success and failure rests with the leader. The leader must own everything in his or her world. There is no one else to blame. The leader must acknowledge mistakes and admit failures, take ownership of them, and develop a plan to win.
Wally Kowis, Branch Manager at Realty One Group in Las Vegas, agrees:
Leadership was a huge part of my military experience! Everyone leads in a certain capacity and it puts us in a responsible position that people trust.
4. Veterans Understand that Success is Built on Habits, Not Talent
When I was a kid, my father, a Vietnam Veteran, always used to tell me to make my bed every morning. Naturally I balked at the idea. He would then tell me that in basic training on Paris Island his drill instructor would thoroughly inspect his bed each morning. The goal was to get the sheets tight enough to be able to bounce a quarter off them. Yes really.
Today, of course, with books like The Power of Habit topping the bestseller lists, it makes perfect sense.
Success is built from habit. Not inspiration, not intelligence, not skill. Habit.
The Marine Corps figured this out decades ago. Sorry inspirational speakers. 🙁
Here’s Retired Naval Admiral William H. Mcraven explaining how a small act like making your bed to perfection can influence the rest of your day:
If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.
And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made — that you made — and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.
How many small, mundane tasks do your agents have to tackle every morning? If you want someone to take those tasks seriously, hire a veteran.
Knowing that success comes from habit, veterans often take the initiative when first starting in real estate.
Here’s USMC Veteran Ruben Hernandez, Broker / Owner of Coldwell Banker Blackstone and EGA Homes ( a military housing division dedicated to only serving Veterans and their housing needs), on how Veterans learn the habit of taking initiative early in their careers.
While serving your country, taking initiative when an opportunity arises is critical to a successful mission. This skill is learned and reinforced in basic training and is crucial to survival out in the field. I am confident that when I interview a Veteran, he/she already knows the value and importance of taking initiative in the real estate industry. Taking initiative can take on many forms but the outcome never changes.
5. Veterans Don’t Let Their Emotions Get in the Way of Their Goals
Working in real estate is stressful. Even the best of us are tested each day with situations that seem to cry out for a fearful or angry response. Of course that fear and anger can and does kill deals faster than just about anything else.
While setting your emotions aside and pushing through can help agents get close more deals, it helps soldiers stay alive.
This is why soldiers and sailors learn to manage their stress no matter what’s happening around them. No easy feat.
Naval Academy graduate and former real estate agent, Commander Mary Kelly, routinely works with real estate companies to train their teams. Mary emphasizes the need for agents to remain focused for their clients throughout the home buying process.
It is a stressful time, and agents need to be a calming presence for their clients. We have to remember that most people only purchase or sell one, or maybe 2 homes in their life, so this is a difficult process for them. We, as agents, need to help them during this emotional time, and that means deflecting and absorbing the stress for them whenever possible.
Here’s former secretary of defense Robert Mcnamara on not letting your emotions get the best of you:
You can never substitute emotion for reason. I still would allow a place for intuition in this process, but not emotion.
6. Veterans Understand That Service to Others is a Virtue in Itself
What no one tells you before you start working as an agent is that this if you do it right, you won’t be a salesperson. In fact, some of the most successful people in the industry never “sold” a day in their lives.
Instead, they understand the value of being an advocate. They understand that service, not sales, should be the core role of any agent worth their salt.
I found this out myself the hard way. For my first few months as an agent in Manhattan, I tried to “sell” my clients. As you can imagine, the response was dreadful.
Then, one day I decided to just be myself and stop thinking about the commission checks. Once I did, I discovered that all of my clients needed the same thing. Help!
Veterans are taught this from day one in basic training. Even the motto of Marine Corps, Semper Fi, translates to “always faithful” a nod at the role selfless service plays in the Corps. That’s selfless services to the Marine Corps, to your commanding officer, and to your fellow soldiers.
Here’s military veteran and Texas Realtor Meghan Pelley (CNE), on how learning the value of selfless service in the military helped her career as a Realtor:
Service to others first is a hallmark of those that serve in the military and it’s the foundation of the fiduciary responsibility that we as Realtors have to our clients. I used that logic as a lens when I was in the Air National Guard and it’s how I live my day to day life as a Realtor. Service to others is the rent we pay while we’re on this planet.
7. Military Veterans Are in it For the Right Reasons
While everyone has different reasons for becoming a Realtor, a desire to help people in need is generally pretty low on the list.
That’s a shame.
For many veterans though, this is not the case. For them, working as a Realtor gives them the perfect chance to help their fellow veterans, wounded warriors, and active duty soldiers find home.
As you might imagine, this dedication to helping people in need makes their jobs as Realtors a heck of a lot more fulfilling.
Combat Veteran and Realtor Levi Rodgers exemplifies this spirit.
I spent time wondering what markets I wanted to operate in, and was thinking I’d be a luxury home agent. Then my friend Pat Fitzgerald, a military focused mortgage lender, literally slapped me on the back of the head and said, “Man, you’re a blown-up Green Beret; you know you need to help your people.He helped me develop my real estate knowledge and skills, teaching me everything I needed to know to help former soldiers and their families find a home. He exposed me to the niche, and I fell into engaging with the military community — they are My People.
Here’s Chicago Realtor Cathy Yanda from Baird & Warner on her commitment to helping other veterans:
While on active duty, I served my country. Today, I serve all of the members of the community, including many veterans, helping them to transition into the next phase of their life. This could be assisting with their first home purchase, downsizing, finding a home for an expanding family, helping them move to a new neighborhood or across the country, managing the sell of a loved one’s home, or purchasing an investment property.
Even better, successful veteran agents will seek out and help recruit other veterans. Freddy Rodriguez, area vice president and manager at
Carrington Real Estate Services is bullish on recommending real estate careers for fellow veterans:
I would definitely recommend a career in real estate to all my fellow brothers and sisters. If they follow the mindset and the traits instilled in them by serving our country, and with a little coaching, there is no doubt in my mind that they will be very successful in our industry as I am.
8. Veterans Are Resilient
Sadly, resilience seems to have been reduced to a buzzword lately. Every motivational speaker and real estate coach seems to talk about the value of resilience more and more frequently. We do too. In fact, we think resilience is what separates the $40k agents from the $500k agents.
Developing resilience needs to be taken as seriously as any other skill you need to succeed in real estate.
Washington Realtor Jim Swanson explains how the resilience he learned in the military stuck with him through his career as an agent:
Our motto was “Can Do”, which has stuck with me through many years of civilian life. Whatever struggles life throws my way, I can always dig down and use the skills I acquired from my military service to carry me through to the desired outcome.
9. Veterans Are Optimists
Optimism is another core trait that all good Realtors share. While optimism can be hard to teach, it’s something that the military often instills in its soldiers as a matter of course.
After flying 129 missions as a WWII fighter pilot, former Windermere Realtor Ralph Jenkins developed a sense of optimism that served him well in his 26 year career as a Realtor.
Here’s Windermere Realty Founder John Jacobi on the irrepressible optimism that made Ralph Jenkins an inspiration to everyone he worked with:
Talk about taking lemons and making lemonade. With a twinkle in his eyes Ralph would give me advice on how to remedy the various situations with humor and grace. I would go back to work re-energized and ready to face the demons for the rest of the week. For those of you who were lucky enough to have known Ralph, he seemed to find humor in just about everything.
10. Veterans Know How to Stay Organized
Another pain point for newer Realtors is consistency. For example, while you may get lucky reaching the right lead, at the right time, with the right message, implementing a system to follow up will greatly increase your ROI.
The only problem is that coming up with efficient systems and sticking to them is a challenge.
For veterans? Not so much.
Here’s West Point grad, former Army Artillery Officer, and Realtor Brian Adams on the ways the military helped him develop and stick to procedures in real estate:
What has served me best from my time in the Army was the military’s very process-oriented approach to operations. Implementing processes in real estate is, in my opinion, one of the most critical components of success as an agent.I have even created some of my own policies and procedures manuals modeled on the Army Regulations (ARs) and Field Manuals (FMs) I had to study and learn in the military.
11. Veterans Know the Value of Teamwork
While many new (and some old) Realtors think they’re lone wolves out for themselves, in reality, every good Realtor needs to learn how to work with a team.
Whether it’s your fellow agents, listing agents, buyer’s agent, or lenders, real estate is a team sport. If you can’t work well on a team, you’re not going to go very far in this industry.
Since teamwork is a core principle for the military, the value of teamwork is instilled in every soldier from the first day of basic training.
Paul Dillon, Vietnam Veteran and CEO of Chicago based Dillon Consulting Services, explains;
The whole Armed Forces are built on the “buddy system”. Nobody accomplishes the mission alone. If you’re going to be successful in the military, you need to work with all types and kinds of people, from all races, creeds, genders, backgrounds and persuasions, and weld all of these disparate interests into a fighting force that’s going to defeat the enemy. Service in the military makes you understand the concept of “teamwork” perfectly.
And, as an officer, or non-commissioned officer, you learn how to lead a team to accomplish the mission. If you can’t do this—if you can’t forge your troops into an effective fighting force—you’re mustered out of the service pretty quickly. There’s no margin for error here. There’s no second chances. This is serious business. This isn’t just about “corporate profits”. Lives are at stake.
Russ Laggan, regional vice president of Carrington Real Estate Services LLC agrees that teamwork comes naturally to veterans:
There are two key qualities that stand out most to me in my experience in working with and hiring veterans: the discipline and teamwork they bring to their roles as real estate agent. The vets I’ve worked with have been great team players and played well with others. Their military training instilled a discipline that is paramount to success particularly in real estate, which is by nature a very unstructured environment.
While You’re Here…
If you enjoyed this article and plan to work harder to recruit veterans for your brokerage, we applaud your efforts. Hiring a veteran will not only help the veteran community, but your bottom line as well..
If you’re just here out of curiosity, please consider donating to a non profit that serves veterans today. While they represent some of the bravest, brightest, and most talented people in the country, many are suffering and need your help.
Here’s a list of reputable veterans charities to donate to from Stars and Stripes, the official publication of the US Armed Forces.
Wounded Warrior Project
Mission: To assist servicemembers injured after 9/11
Donations: $312 million
Percent spent on direct aid: 60
Percent of fundraising costs: 34
Homes for Our Troops
Mission: Build specially equipped homes for injured service members
Donations: $17 million
Percent spent on direct aid: 89
Percent of fundraising costs: 5
Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund
Mission: Financial assistance to wounded servicemembers and their families
Donations: $20 million
Percent spent on direct aid: 93
Percent of fundraising costs: 4
Fisher House Foundation
Mission: Free lodging to military families during illness
Donations: $56 million
Percent spent on direct aid: 91
Percent of fundraising costs: 2
Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society
Mission: Financial assistance, interest-free loans, educational scholarships
Donations: $17 million
Percent spent on direct aid: 89
Percent of fundraising costs: 3
Mission: Financial and recovery assistance for wounded servicemembers
Donations: $61 million
Percent spent on direct aid: 92
Percent of fundraising costs: 4
Disabled American Veterans Charitable Service Trust
Mission: Physical and psychological rehabilitation programs for ill and wounded veterans
Donations: $6 million
Percent spent on direct aid: 97 percent
Percent of fundraising costs: 1 percent