It seems everyone had another life prior to real estate. Few people grow up saying, â€śI want to be a real estate agent!â€ť Rare is the 18 year old that gets a license and does nothing but sell real estate the rest of their life.
I had a plethora of jobs in my youth. I got a job at McDonalds the day I turned 16 and have been pretty much working ever since. One summer in college I moved pianos. That job sucked. Another summer I had a brief stint installing guard rails for the Texas Highway Department. That was about as much fun as moving pianos.
I went to college for two semesterâ€™s right after high school. First was at Texas A&M at Galveston where I quickly found out going to a college where you could see the beach outside the English 101 classroom was not conducive to proper study habits. Rather than get kicked out, I packed up and moved to Austin to attend the University of Texas. There I quickly found out being 18, away from home and living in a college town that is jammed full of coeds, in a house with 5 other guys, was not conducive to proper study habits.
I pumped gas that semester in Austin (physically pumped gas â€“ this was back in the day of full service gas stations) which did not pay well. One evening an ad came on the radio announcing that Motorola was hiring for entry-level workers in their semiconductor manufacturing facility. The pay was outstandingâ€”$3.50 an hour (almost a buck over minimum wage!) and it had benefits â€“ like vacation time, tuition reimbursement and health insurance. So I dropped out of college (â€śThey canâ€™t teach me anything!â€ť) and applied for a position.
Fast forward 16 years. I was still employed at Motorola and had worked my way up from production operator to a mid-management position. For several years Iâ€™d had a strong desire to work in Human Resource Management. But despite a great record at Motorola, I couldnâ€™t secure an HR position without a college degree. So at the age of 35, I finally took advantage of that tuition reimbursement and went back to school.
College was different this time. Getting older and realizing the point in it helps. So does having an amazingly supportive wife. Even though I had two very small children at the time, I plunged into school with gusto. I graduated three years later, Summa Cum Laude and the Valedictorian of my class.
Off I went into Human Resources, and I loved every minute of it. But about four years into that gig, the semiconductor market went through its biggest downturn in history. Factories were being shut down and layoffs were rampant. In two years I personally laid off over 3500 people. That sucked worse than piano moving and Highway Department labor combined. I had gotten into HR to help people, and all I did was wreck peoples lives on a daily basis.
I also knew once we were done with the closures and layoffs, the HR department would be axed.
And it was.
In 2004, I was â€śdownsizedâ€ť after a 24 year career. I was 43 and knew nothing but Motorola and semiconductors. I had no idea what I was going to do, or how I would support my family.
Fortunately, my tenure at Motorola led to a nice severance package, and after much discussion with my wife, we decided to try real estate sales.
I knew very little about real estate when I got my license. My plan was to build a web presence and market and prospect almost entirely on-line.
Problem was, I knew nothing about web sites either. So I hooked up with an experienced broker to teach me real estate and I plunged head-first into the Internet to teach myself fundamental web design and SEO (Search Engine Optimization) skills. 14 hour days were not uncommon. I progressed up the learning curve, slowly, but steadily.
In Arizona you have to have a sales license for 3 years before you can get a brokerâ€™s license and â€śopen up your own shopâ€ť â€“ which was the goal from Day 1 in real estate.
And on February 28 of this year, we realized that goal and opened Thompsonâ€™s Realty. Weâ€™d originally planned to hire 1 agent. Weâ€™re up to 8 now. Growing a real estate brokerage in the midst of a significant market downturn is challenging. The internet presence weâ€™ve built over the last 4 years has been helpful in insulating us somewhat from this market shift. We continue to grow and learn every single day, and I donâ€™t think (or hope) that will ever end.
I still donâ€™t really know what I want to be when I grow up. Iâ€™ve entertained returning to the corporate world. There are aspects of it I miss. Who knows what the future will hold, but Iâ€™m fully convinced that if you want something bad enough, and work hard to get it, you can have whatever you want.
Jay Thompson is a Real Estate Broker/Owner of Thompsonâ€™s Realty in Phoenix, Arizona.