Leadership + People:
Episode 06 - Brandon Fugal - Part 2 of 2
- Taking the advice of a mentor with humility and action [00:40]
- The importance of walking the walk [08:01]
- Integrity and authenticity of character as demonstrated by his father [10:05]
- Putting others interested ahead of your own [15:45]
- Finding work life balance while understanding the priorities of others [19:12]
- “What’s your number” “More” A cinematic example of seeing success not in terms of monetary gain but in increased impact [23:07]
This episode of Leadership and People
was originally released on:
October 04, 2017
Welcome to Leadership and People. This is a series that pulls back the curtain on leadership by interviewing CEOs, senior executives and entrepreneurs who had large exits. We ask these experts about how they built trusted networks to rapidly grow their companies. And what advice they wish they knew if they could do it all again.
GUEST – BRANDON FUGAL: I’ll tell you I find myself in the fetal position more times than I care to admit. And you know, often times these days, with added responsibility, and added risk that comes with that, you know I’ve created a whole file that I could name “be careful what you wish for”.
HOST – JESS LARSEN: This is part 2 of our episode with BRANDON FUGAL. If you didn’t catch part one go back and hear about how his empire has expanded. They’ve got 600 of some of the top commercial real estate people in the country all coast to coast. But Brandon when we were leaving off of part 1 we were talking about this idea of being a trusted advisor and how it’s more than just being an expert. Can you talk about a few of the people that kinda inspire you. That you look up to in that way.
Mentors and How Brandon Fugal Began His Career
BRANDON FUGAL: You bet. You know my path in business really started at age 13. I remember my father was given a book by my mom on father’s day. And the book was called Iacocca. It was the autobiography of a gentleman Lee Iacocca, who was really the icon of the American automotive industry in the 70s and 80s. And I pulled that book off the shelf, that father’s day weekend and I could not put it down. I actually read it cover to cover. And it changed my life. It opened my eyes to the world around me. The way Lee Iacocca presented kind of his views on business, life, politics, you name it. It really brought a sense of color and dynamism to really- what really propels the world around us. And it opened my eyes to business in a way that really I think inspired me moving forward.
I’ve been very very fortunate in my life and career to have great mentors. One mentor in particular when I was a young broker trying to forge my way in the business and you know, create a leading position in the market- put his arm around me and took me aside one day. I was 21. And said one of the problems you have Brandon, is you look too young. You know I had a very kind of youthful boyish appearance at the time. And he said you know it’s something that you need to work on compensating for. And it’s funny this is going to sound humorous but he…. He advised me to get glasses. Even though I had perfect vision at the time. He said they don’t have to be prescription glasses of course. You need the appropriate eyewear that will help you present yourself more professionally and he says “go throw away all of those flashing trendy suits you have been wearing. You need to go back to the basics”. And you know, he also advised me against – I was driving a little flashy red acura sports car at the time, sports sedan and he advised me to go with something a little bit more conservative. And you know I… it was a pivotal time. I could either bristle at that and say “Forget you. I mean who are you to tell me what I should be doing different. I’m doing just fine and succeeding on my” or really humbling myself and taking that constructive criticism and that advice and then applying it. It was some of the best advice I ever been given. And it truly changed my life.
Within a week I implemented the changes that he suggested. And its funny, sad but true. Perception is reality. When you are a service provider, when you are in the professional services business. People are making judgements based on, you know, first impressions and the way they perceive you. I learned a very valuable lesson, virtually overnight as I made some of those adjustments that my early mentor you know asked me to make in order for us to work together. And for me to really take me to the next level. It truly did change the dynamic of how executives and business leaders related to me. And frankly I think I acted the part a little bit better. There is something culturally about the office dynamic that you create as an organization that, exudes either a level of professionalism or betrays it. You know one thing we do differently is that our offices by design look like law firms. We are very private office centric. Our professionals are in private offices. They are not in a sea of cubicles. We don’t run a sweatshop. This is not a traditional sales, sales oriented organization with the big trading floor. We take our role as trusted advisors and dealing with highly proprietary sensitive information and leveraging that information in order to help our clients you know outperform the market and protect their interests. We take that very seriously and I think you see that reflected in our culture. I learned that from some of the early business leaders, and entrepreneurs that I had the privilege of working with and watching them and learning from their example. You know it takes an element of risk taking and fearlessness in order to be an entrepreneur. And I have to say the greatest tribute I can give on a podcast or something like this is really recognizing the risk takers. The people that are willing to push the envelope and really create whole new industries.
Or really, I think go against conventional wisdom. You know you look at a lot of the up and coming companies that are truly changing our world they are lead by visionary leaders that were risk takers that didn’t listen to the naysayers. I mean Lee Iacocca, going back to that book. I mean he had a lot of critics. I mean he was fired from the CEO position from Ford Motor Company. And ended up having a falling out with the Ford family. I mean it’s an epic story. And he rose from the ashes like a phoenix in order to turn around Chrysler Corporation; and really I think propel the automotive industry to the next level. And hearing his story and reading that as a young man truly had such a profound impact on me. And inspired me.
By the time I was 15, 16 years old I had my own subscriptions to the Wall Street Journal and Businessweek. And I loved reading the stories, of kind of the who’s who. The people who were literally changing our world. And It wasn’t enough to know; ok Steve Jobs is the CEO and founder of Apple… or Ray Noorda at the Time was the chairman of Novel Corporation. Or Lee Iacocca was the head of Chrysler- it was learning what drove those individuals. What was in their DNA that made them special and really distinguish them from everyone else in the crowd?
08:01 JL: You think about that kind of pattern recognition, you know so that we can put in the meaningful repetitions to build our own leadership habits or networking habits or any kind of those kind of things that help people achieve things that are uncommon right……and it’s not just hard work, it’s hard work on the right things. So… Going back to this story about this mentor who gave you this advice.. It was an opportunity for you to bristle. What do you think it is about him or what patterns about the way he was doing this do you think, you know, helped you not feel blamed and helped you become open to information that maybe wouldn’t naturally been as welcome.
BRANDON FUGAL: Well I love people who lead by example. And that’s one thing about him. I mean, it was easy to take his guidance and direction because he… he walked the talk. He wasn’t all talk. He actually lived it. I think you know success in business is 90% about showing up, every day. Its persistence. And your… what separates the business leaders, the entrepreneurs who have really made a difference from those who haven’t, who’ve ended up being mediocre and not having an impact is really just that. Its being persistent and showing up on a day to day basis. I mean what we do in the commercial real estate realm is not rocket science. I mean we are selling market intelligence. We are helping to guide and direct people to make good decisions and help them navigate their commercials real estate strategy and their facilities planning or investment strategy. And a lot of it really comes down to being persistent and following up and doing what you say you’re going to do. It’s following up on your commitments, and doing it with a level of integrity and professionalism that, that really distinguishes you from everyone else in the crowd.
10:05 JL: That makes me think a ton about my mentor who eventually became my partner when we started that private equity fund. And he had set such a good example for me. You know we talk about persistence or going that extra mile right. He was completely willing to drive five hours to a meeting that was a maybe and back home the same night so he could be back working the next day. And it’s just like…it’s not really that tough it’s just almost no one’s willing to inconvenience themselves that much. Or like the professional thing- He will show up to meetings 15 minutes early to make sure he doesn’t waste somebody else’s time because of traffic or something you know, unforeseen. Its interesting how we’re… we live in a society where being that busy is a badge of honor. But most of us aren’t willing to think about how busy someone else is above ourselves and make a sacrifice like showing up 15 minutes early.
Advice from his Mentors
BRANDON FUGAL: Absolutely. You know I.. I think of two of the greatest examples in my life. Number one is my father. My dad. Is my greatest example. Not only in business but in life. And he was not in the commercial real estate business. In fact my mom and dad thought I was crazy and didn’t really consider it a real job going into commission sales from a young age. But my father was in the utility construction business and grew up a big super regional construction company that focused on fiber optics and natural gas installation … but my dad, the one thing I loved about my dad was he was always 110% honest and he was transparents and authentic. Thats one thing that I look for in people is authenticity. I try to gravitate toward those people that are genuine, that are… straightforward.. The one thing I love about my father; he has always been the same man no matter what stage of life … no matter how poor, how wealthy, he has remained constant. He’s been my north star. He has always been authentic and treated everyone, by really kind of applying the golden rule in his day to day life.
Another example is a developer client that I was fortunate to come into contact with at age 18. His name was Jim Morse. By the way my father’s name is Dan fugal and I owe everything to him as his eldest son and his example. The other client is Jim Morse. He is a developer here in the Utah area. And entrepreneur. And the one thing about Jim is, Jim treated everyone like they were Bill Gates. Literally every meeting that I attended with Jim Morse as a young man I watched how he treated people with absolute respect and treated them like they were literally the focus of all of his world and attention when he met with them. And It had such an impact on my, I mean for years I was waiting for that kind of scooby doo villain mask to come off. I mean no one can be this nice this personable this genuine and warm just every hour of the day and truly interested in the people that he is meeting with but he, and to this day it’s been 26 years later and he is still that same man. He has been unchanged through cycles through loses through success. He continues to treat everyone like they’re Bill Gates walking in the door. And I have a lot of, a lot of respect for that.
I’ve tried to always remember that in my approach to business. I think we often, in business, you have to you have to prioritize. It’s tough. You know aside from information the most powerful commodity out there is time. And I think often times we as executives, as business leaders, sometimes probably don’t, you know, don’t take the time to focus on the individual as much as we should and give that importance. And benefit of the doubt to people. I mean, thank goodness and looking back on my life that I… I didn’t… in Corporate Alliance people… I mean Jeff Rust who is the CEO of Corporate Alliance talks about relationship arrogance. And that business leaders are often guilty of relationship arrogance where they actually try to assign a dollar value or potential financial yield to a potential relationship instead of looking at every opportunity as being equally important and not being discriminatory. And I look at the incredible companies I have had the privilege of working with and representing that have come out of the garage. That have started with just 1 or 2 or 4 guys. And treating that that assignment or that relationship with the same importance you would treat a company with thousands of employees with a multi billion dollar market cap- I think is important. And I think that is something that is lost in today’s business world that, that needs, I think to be championed.
15:45 JL: Well for me certainly I think of some of my mentors; a guy named Terry Warner, that’s written some incredible books, and different people that have changed my life and who I’ve had the chance to later meet and saw that they actually walk the walk. That kind of self forgetfulness about this isn’t all about me, this isn’t all about what they can do for me. And like just really being present with people. It’s… You’re right, It’s not as common, but it’s incredibly magnetic. You know, shifting gears here a little bit. You know I have been in commissioned sales earlier in my career right…and it can be.. in my experience on some of the teams that I have- it can kind of be a, ‘I got mine’ type of environment very easily. When you think about the principals that have been the most helpful to you in expanding to 30 offices and hundreds of staff -of quite frankly people who can have temptations for self focus because it’s ‘my commission’ What advice would you have for other people that want to go from being a good regional player to being a you know a real national player.
Creating an Enduring Impact
BRANDON FUGAL: Well I kinda touched on it early. I think being willing to work in partnership with others in order to create more- exponentially, is going to be key. I think those agents, those professionals that try to hoard everything, whether it be money, or fame, or clientele, end up really operating from that scarcity point of view; that I think undermines one’s ability to really create an enduring and powerful impact on the environment. It’s a…And people can sense that. People- Other executives other business leaders can sense when someone is again just trying to get in front of a commission or a sale or, you know, just trying to… to really create a financial event by virtue of the relationship. You know I think not having that sense of desperation, you know, really does help the psychodynamic because you can sense it in the air. My father always used to say… There are two things he used to tell me, when we would visit early in my career. One was “Always operate like you have a full tank of gas. Even Though you may be running on fumes and maybe barely coasting into that gas station or that next meeting..you know.. Always walk in as if you are operating on a full tank of gas…you know with quiet confidence……not arrogance…not overconfidence, but a quiet confidence that would exude that.. not only the attitude but that feeling that people would want to gravitate toward and be part of. And the other thing he used to say was “Don’t let anyone see the holes on the bottom of your shoes. Even though your shoes may have holes in the soles… always keep the top polished and never betray your professionalism even if you are starving and living from sale to sale, at times. Which is a key part of growth, in business. But I think putting that relationship first and…and acting the part and not not carrying that sense of desperation or focus on some financial expectation is going to be key to someone’s success on every level.
19:12 JL: That’s solid advice. Thinking about, again, this expansion and people who would like to have…go from how many ever staff they have to hundreds more right, and growing an organization. When you think about what that takes, what kind of lessons do you feel like you would have learned, wished you could have learned earlier. I mean everybody who’s ever grown made all these mistakes, right, and it’s like you were talking about that persistence to like pick yourselves back up instead of curl up in the corner right. But anything you can say like “Man I can tell you one thing I wish I would’ve learned earlier…”
Work Life Balance and Limitations
BRANDON FUGAL: I’ll tell you I find myself in the fetal position more times than I care to admit. And you know often times these days, you know, with added responsibility, and added risk that comes with that, you know, I’ve created a whole file that I could name ‘be careful what you wish for as you may get it’. And you know with growth with success and with opportunity you know there comes great responsibility and obligation. and I think knowing one’s boundaries, knowing you know knowing the limits and frankly I think having a, having a balance in your life is going to be important. I am probably the worst example of work life balance that you will ever come into contact with. I… I’m terrible. To this day I’m struggling. I’m always trying to seek better ways to achieve work life balance and failing miserably day after day. And I suppose it’s the price of Market domination on one hand. But I think you know that’s something that I would encourage everyone to look at- is taking a personal inventory. You know everyone has different priorities goals and objectives. What is right for one person isn’t necessarily right for another. You know I have learned over time to really respect that my partners may not want to work 18-20 hour days. And it may not be important to them to lead the market. Or you know, to be producing at a certain level. It may be just to provide a high level of service and integrity and professionalism to, to really their clients. And they are seeking that quality of life. And that work life balance and able to achieve it. I…again I look at my father. I don’t know how he did it. But to this day I marvel how he was able to be home every night for, or most nights for family dinner, yet still be a business leader, you know, give service in the community and be involved in a whole series of other, you know, pursuits. And I think that’s one thing we’re all challenged with in this day and age. Is how do we achieve that balance in life. And everyone has a different definition of balance. I’d say find out what that is. You know it reminds me of that old movie Karate Kid. I think that’s one of the top five movies of all time. Not the remake with Jackie Chan which kinda sucked…..it was ok- it was half baked. But the original with Daniel Larusso and Mister Miyagi. I mean, that there are so many core principles in that movie. I often look to pop culture references in order to help.. to drive I think a lot of my points across. But it’s a great example. Its one of those classic movies that focuses on balance. You know, getting balance in your life and being able to find that elusive [laughs] balance between ambition and achieving your goals and also you know making sure that you don’t compromise your integrity your standards or your quality of life in the process.
23:07 JL: It’s so great because you know I think especially for anybody who maybe has more ambitious personality type, more can be really addictive. You know for me especially, like when I had some early wins, it was like – man no family sacrifice was too big for me to make another big check, right. And I think about, you know, probably one of my favorite books on that subject is that Harvard professor Clayton Christensen. He’s got that book, “How will you measure your life”. And he talks about you know if you don’t intentionally define these things that you just talked about; they’re not going to define themselves by accident. What’s going already is probably going to keep getting more of. I don’t know maybe I’m putting words in your mouth but I think you thought about having a look in the mirror is something I could be doing more of and should have done more of in my career along the way and when I have done is one of the most beneficial things to my life and my family, right?
BRANDON FUGAL: Right and I’ll be the first to admit- I am the worst example. I mean I’m…People say when is it enough. What are your goals? I mean… what is your number. I mean there is a movie a couple of years ago wall street 2 it was the follow up from the original iconic classic Wall Street With Michael Douglas and Charlie Sheen. You know… I know it is rated R. It is required viewing for anyone who comes to work with me because there are core principles in that movie as well that really are applicable to this day. But in one pivotal, pivotal scene in Wall Street 2, the kinda elder statesmen or the Gordon Gekko equivalent in that movie which was played by, Josh Brolin – great actor – was sitting in his study – his rich study in his Manhattan brownstone. And the young protege, you know, was there. And the young man says you know when is it enough? You know, everyone has their number. What is your number? And the, the elder looks at him and kinda with a smirk on his face, he says one word- more. [laughs] And unfortunately that has often been kind of my approach. It’s more. It hasn’t- I haven’t been driven by numbers. I’ve been very fortunate in that I am well compensated for producing results. And I have been very very blessed to have a career that I truly love, that is my hobby as well. I mean It was a happy coincidence that there are financial rewards in the commercial real estate business. I would tell all of the those that are listening; that success in my view has nothing to do with money.
It has to do with excellence. Even though money is a very effective scorecard. I have to tell you, I have more respect for a teacher who is the best at what they do, who literally takes it personally. And you can feel how much they care about what they’re doing and how much of an impact they’re having and that translating into really changing people’s lives….I look at some of the school teachers I had in high school and in junior high, you know, I am indebted to those people. I am so thankful to have good mentors and a diversity of people who I would define as absolute successes in their lives. And it isn’t always correlated with monetary success or financial success. I think success comes down to excellence and being the best at what you do; and frankly helping others achieve success in their own lives. I think that’s a measure of one’s success. How much are you helping other people achieve their goals? And how much are you putting other people’s interests ahead of your own?
27:01 JL: Well and It’s funny how much longer lasting that one is. You know I remember being a young punk kid buying my first really expensive car. And like a week later I’m like- come on. This is all I get. [laughs] How come no one cares [laughs] that I have this new car. Whatever right? But then you think about some clients or some other individuals who have been able to help make some, some big moves that they have really wanted to make in their life. And years later they keep going back, you know, the you know, the comments of how it affected them so much more, personally gratifying. And I would say even if they never said anything back. You know it’s funny how service is like a success that keeps on giving, internally. Right. Well listen. This has been great. We really appreciate all the time you have given us. People who want to reach out, people who might have commercial real estate needs, things like this, what’s the best way for them to get ahold of you?
BRANDON FUGAL: You can catch me on LinkedIn. Google me in Brandon Fugal F U G A L. Or go to my website www.cbcadvisors.com That is “o r s.com” And I always joke but it’s sadly true but if you are in the intermountain west or the Utah market, just drive around for a few minutes and you will inevitably bump into one of my signs. And you can reach me with these. I’m, unfortunately for me, very accessible. But that’s again apart of providing that level of service and hopefully putting a dent in the universe. But please I encourage anyone to reach out to me. Any questions at all.
I and again, I kind of alluded to this earlier, I have very little work life balance. I’m totally screwed up. But I love what I do. And so, you know, I am one of those guys who’s answering his phone at 2 am. And sadly still at the office. So don’t hesitate and I wish you all the best. It is a privilege to be part of this podcast, and really an honor be part of a vibrant successful business community. All the best.
29:15 JL: Thanks so much.