From an early age, I had begun showing signs of having a business-like mindset. Growing up my father and I spent a lot of time hunting and fishing. Fishing was my favorite though! My first venture started when I was 6 years old. It all started because of this Worm Farm I had seen at one of the local sporting goods stores. I wanted it so bad! I remember asking my dad if we could get it. He asked me, “What will we do with all those worms?” I looked at him with the most excited expression and said, “We can catch so many fish and then we can be like the bait shop and sell the rest.” After some back and forth, with a laugh and smile my dad agreed. And let me tell you, we had more worms than we knew what to do with. In the end, we wound up giving away most of the worms after a few fishing trips. Hey, what can I say, we did catch some fish! 🙂
As I grew older, I continued trying to create opportunities for myself by finding ways to help others. I grew up in northern Michigan where a majority of the year the heat in the house was turned on and plenty of snow. A good friend of mine and I both had wood stoves in our homes. and it was an everyday chore for us to cut, split, and stack firewood. This is where we got our idea! Yes, you could go buy firewood in town, and have it loaded up, but transporting it home and unloading it was a whole process itself. After a few door knocks, phone calls, and some good word of mouth, we had a group of local folks to whom we offered a complete service from start to finish getting them set up for the cold winter ahead.
We decided to do things differently, and despite the extra work, gas, and time, it was a much better experience for our clients. I still remember the neighbors from up the road, how thankful and gracious they were to me, that I was willing and able to help them. That feeling of helping others has stuck with me! We successfully did that for 3 years, before we headed off to college.
In college, I chose to continue the business trend and pursue a bachelor’s degree in business management. I attended 2 years at Central Michigan University, before transferring to Tennessee State University where I graduated. Business felt like the right fit for me and I wanted to learn more about starting and running a successful business. Before graduating, my employer at the time had offered me a position as Assistant Store Manager. With graduation still months away, I really had not yet considered what was next for me after graduation. No way had I ever considered working in a retail store, however, it seemed like an opportunity that could only lead to new learning experiences. Could I really be a manager for a Fortune 500 company at just 23? I was ready for the challenge!
1st Salary Job: Retail
Retail is a very fast-paced environment, with lots of moving parts, and things are constantly changing. Learning to adapt quickly and learning to use your “team” was a must. For anyone who has ever worked retail or knows someone who has, I am sure you probably have some stories, good and bad.
Learning to manage other people was a big challenge for me in the beginning. I remember thinking to myself that I wanted my employees to see me as a mentor. I wasn’t there to be an intimidating boss, I had one of those before! I was there to help, teach, and make the jobs of everyone in that building easier, while making clients happy and making the store money. Easy concept, right? Everyone tends to respond differently to direction and learn differently (visually, hands-on, listening) and it can be hard to narrow in on how to best communicate, coach, and help your individual employees/clients. Listening is key!
Shortly after COVID, I was let go from the company I had worked with over the last 4 years. Before I knew it, I had felt more lost than ever, and I was back at step one. However, today as I have aged and matured, I believe first-hand that life will come along and give you a little nudge sometimes when we need it most to get us back on track. I had become stagnant, and looking back now, losing that job was the best thing that ever happened to me!
Getting into the automotive industry was a strange adjustment for me. I had never worked a sales job and definitely had never been on commission only, but I could see the value in working hard for yourself and making more. When I applied for the job I had no idea if it was even a Ford, Chevy, Dodge, etc. I was just ready to start the next chapter!
Flash forward to my first year, the car business was volatile with new vehicle inventory being low, the cost of used vehicles, and interest rates being high. I knew this was likely not a long-term career for me but the economy was not what pushed me to leave the industry! I grew up most of my life with a hospitality mindset, not a sales mindset. You treat people right, take care of them, and are honest with them the rest will follow.
I found myself in an environment that did not value the people I brought into the building the same way I did. My business was beginning to suffer because of who I had aligned myself with. Also, I failed to see at the time, all the other things that I had been setting aside in life, without even really noticing it. I was working more hours a day/week than I was in retail and the worst part is I was missing valuable time with family and friends, while I was working myself to the bone. Something needed to change!
Why Real Estate?
A good friend of mine that I actually met from the dealership, told me he thought I would make a great real estate agent. He tells me all the time about when we first met. He called 4 dealerships that day, he came to me because of how I treated him on our first phone conversation. I asked questions, I listened, and I responded with options and facts. No other dealership bothered to ask about him, they all just told him “Yeah, the car is here, come on in!” It has taken me time to truly see that most people in this world want to feel valued and like they are being heard. It can be easy to get caught up in just answering questions in sales, but what do you learn about your client when answering their questions?
All of these life experiences and previous ventures, one by one taught me all the things necessary to not only just be a great agent, but a better person! Better for my family, a better friend, and better for anyone who I may cross paths with. I strongly believe in balance, too much of one thing or too little of another can cause inconsistencies in life. Working alongside other professionals of all different ages, from different fields and skill levels taught me a lot about myself and others. I always say that every struggle and challenge has its lesson. That lesson may not always be apparent at the moment, but by keeping a positive mentality, keep moving and life will show you the way!
By: JonMichael Robinson
J. Harmon Home Team is presenting Pitch Practice and First Impressions with Hope Warfel on Monday, November 6, 2023, from 6-8 PM, at 906 Ridgely Road. Please reserve your spot. Sign Up here!