From Chicken Soup for the Entrepreneur's Soul

Uncertain Certainty

As the reporter left, I sat there with my head in my hands wishing I hadn’t opened my big mouth. Here I was, just twenty-six years old, telling an old hometown reporter that I was going to build the most successful real estate company in his state in just five years, from scratch.

It really hadn’t occurred to me that the most respected and successful real estate company in Indiana had been around for over a hundred years. I had just moved to Indianapolis for the opportunity to build my own company, and I didn’t know a soul. I was young, cocky and ready to claim my stake even though I didn’t know the difference between a profit and loss statement and an accounts receivable statement. I had never balanced a checkbook, let alone built and run my own company. In any case, it was November 1986, and that’s what came out in the paper the next week because of the lack of control between my brain and my mouth.

When I got a bit ahead of myself in the past, I just put my head down and started selling. Selling was easy for me, but building and running a company was a whole other animal. At the time the article came out, my RE/MAX of Indiana headquarters consisted of one executive office in a shared office suite setup, with a shared secretary who answered the phone for over a dozen or so different businesses.

Up until that time, I was a fairly successful real estate agent in Toronto, Canada. I had moved to Indiana to try my hand at building something for myself, something that, if I did it right, would provide me with a bright future and, I hoped, a chance to become a millionaire. I so desperately wanted to become one that I had written about it in my goals five years earlier when I was just twenty-one years old. Although I only went to grade eleven, wonderful mentors had told me that I had more within me than school could ever do for me. For whatever reason, I decided to believe them, rather than the insecure feelings I felt about myself.

So, with my insecure head held high and the RE/MAX concept as my ally, I started to set up appointments with managers and owners of every real estate company in the state. I started with the big boys first, the guys who were numbers one and two in the state, doing billions in sales with over a thousand people in their sales forces.

The first meetings were disastrous—they politely laughed and escorted me out of their offices. Their attitude was, “Why do we need you? We already have in place what you are trying to build from scratch.” The answer? They couldn’t see past their own success to the future and hence were closed-minded from the get-go.

After about four months of daily prospecting and sharing my vision and my story, I got a call from one of the top managers in the state. After our first meeting I knew I was onto possibly the first and biggest deal of my very young career. After several months of discussions, we snagged one of the biggest fish in the pond and were on our way. Within a month’s time, another unhappy manager called from the number-two company and expressed interest as well. It wasn’t long before he and another group purchased the franchisee rights to several more areas. This allowed us to gain credibility and traction.

At the end of the first year, we had nearly one hundred salespeople at our awards banquet. We were off to the races!

No matter where I turned, everyone thought that we were going to go bankrupt within short order. That made sense because I later found out that two other people prior to me had owned the RE/MAX region of Indiana, and both had failed! Regardless, in this case my ignorance proved to be a great strength, as I didn’t really care what had happened in the past. I was prepared to forge ahead and build my company. For me it was simply a matter of sharing with enough people the vision of a better future for themselves and then exceeding their expectations month in and month out.

The next challenge for me was to learn how to run a business and to understand all the moving parts. At first it was overwhelming, especially because I didn’t know what I didn’t know. For a while it seemed as if I had bought myself a job that was strangling me. Not only did I have to sell, I had to deliver all the promises I made, take care of legal duties and make sure finances were in order. That was just the beginning. What it takes to build and run a hundred-person operation is vastly different than a thousand-person operation.

To help me deal with the growth and education I needed, I formed a mastermind group made up of some very successful regional owners in the RE/MAX organization. These individuals helped me shave years off my learning curve and saved me hundreds of thousands of dollars in mistakes. From them, I learned a very valuable lesson: specialized knowledge is worth its weight in gold.

Just six years later, we hit the billion-dollar sales mark. It took those other companies over twenty-five years to get to where persistence, planning and a great attitude helped my company get to in just six years. Today we are grateful to do over $4.5 billion a year in sales and have over 1,600 salespeople.

From those early days of not knowing what to do, today I feel comfortable on stage teaching business owners how to build their companies while living an extraordinary life. It all boils down to three things: finding what you love to do, becoming excellent at it, then telling the whole world about it.

John Assaraf

EPILOGUE: Over the last two decades, John Assaraf has built four multimillion-dollar companies: RE/MAX of Indiana, Bamboo.com, The Street Kid Company and currently OneCoach. Not bad for a kid whose teenage years were turbulent at best.

Besides the tremendous success realized through his RE/MAX company, Assaraf was instrumental in making Bamboo.com the world’s leading provider of imaging infrastructure for the Internet. He then wrote The Street Kid’s Guide to Having It All (Longstreet Press, 2003), which topped many bestseller lists, including Barnes & Noble, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. He also has been featured on ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC, as well as hundreds of radio shows and in print media.

In January 2005, Assaraf cofounded OneCoach, a next-generation business community that helps business owners and self-employed professionals increase revenues, profits and values while living extraordinary lives.

To learn more about Assaraf, please visit his Web Site www.OneCoach.com.

Dahlynn McKowen

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