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$1 Billion in Real Estate sales with Brenda Fontaine – Team building, leadership, and working with family

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Summary

What are some of the most important decisions leaders make?

Hiring the right people

It's all about culture. They can be an amazing sales person, but without the culture fit, they won't work in the business. You can't train nice.

How do you communicate your core values to your employees?

By living it every day

When you live it everyday, people understand your values on a deeper level then when you simply talk about them. It becomes visceral, contagious, and tangible.

what's the secret to pulling out core values in your employees?

Trust

Your employees have to trust you, feel like they can ask you anything, and they have to be comfortable with you and your leadership.

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Transcription

[00:00:24.220] - Cody
So excited to have a legend in the room today, really, really pumped to have you, Brenda Fontaine, for those of you who don't know her. She is the CEO, broker and owner of the Fontaine family of the real estate leader since 1983. In addition to that, she's also an amazing author. I've actually read her awesome book, The Limitless Real Estate Leader. Highly recommend that you guys check out this book, especially for those of you who want to be involved in reality, but also even direct sales in general.

[00:00:51.550] - Cody
I think it's just a phenomenal book for that. And I know, Gabe, you've read it as well.

[00:00:56.170] - Gabriel
Absolutely incredible book. Really great insights. And like team building and working with family and leadership. Incredible. Absolutely. And I think what we'll do is, is that we'll leave a link in the description so that you guys can find it on audible as well as branded. You have a hard copy of this book that we can find online. Possibly. Definitely.

[00:01:11.290] - Brenda
It is on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Excellent.

[00:01:14.960] - Cody
So we'll make sure we put in all the links in the description for you guys to pick that up. But just to give you a little bit more about the Fontaine family. So the Fontaine family, the real estate leader, received thousand nineteens means family owned business of the year by the Institute of the Family Owned Business of Portland. Now, that's huge. And if I'm not mistaken, Brenda, since 1983, you you guys have closed over 6000 transactions.

[00:01:38.830] - Cody
That's nearly a billion dollars in sales since 1983. Is that true?

[00:01:42.820] - Brenda
Yes

[00:01:43.120] - Cody
That is that is unbelievable. Absolutely. So, I mean, congratulations on your success, and we're really excited to have you here today, but thank you. Yes. So we just wanted to kind of like hop into some great questions. So first of all, I just wanted to ask you, how did you get involved in real estate where this whole thing kind of a rise in you?

[00:02:02.110] - Brenda
It. Well, it's kind of a long story, but I would I was always in sales.

[00:02:08.350] - Brenda
I was did something in sales. I did direct sales as far as like selling Avon and fashion Fox and beelined fashions, which probably nobody even knows what that is. That was I was like a teenager when I first started. I was like 14 years ago and I just helped my mom.

[00:02:27.610] - Brenda
But one day my husband just mentioned, you know, you've always done something in sales. What about real estate? And I said, I don't think so, because that is just commission based. And and then when then the time just went on and I saw this ad in the paper that said dream job, flexible hours, unlimited income. And and it was that that was it. I said, I'm good. I can't check on this because it was like a sign for me that said, I need to follow up on this.

[00:03:03.380] - Brenda
Yeah. And I went and talked to the manager of that company, and that was that was the beginning of my journey.

[00:03:10.870] - Cody
Wow. That's amazing. That's absolutely. I mean, now, with that being said, has there ever been anybody that's that you can think of that's been like an impact on your life, someone that's kind of inspired you or maybe someone who's just been a mentor to you that you can think of?

[00:03:24.640] - Brenda
That was always different people. But the one that stands out to me the most is Jim Maxwell.

[00:03:30.430] - Brenda
Yeah, I absolutely love John Maxwell. And I've listened to him for, you know, many, many years, and I still do today. And he was he's been my inspiration as far as I believe in everything he says, as far as you know, you know, being being they're adding value to to your to your clients, to your family, to to just be a servant to the people, you know.

[00:04:01.150] - Cody
And that's so true. Like, there's something that I've always noticed about you, Brenda, is that in relation to John Maxwell, you're one of the most kind of people I've ever met in my entire life. And that's John Maxwell to a T.. Yeah, absolutely. Kind servant, you know, so that's beautiful.

[00:04:16.510] - Gabriel
I, I absolutely love that of the decisions that you make as a leader, because like Cody said, you've been doing this for a long time, longer than most of the decisions that you make during this time. What are some of the most important decisions that you've made?

[00:04:32.590] - Brenda
I would say it's hiring the right people. And I have said I've made mistakes.

[00:04:43.160] - Brenda
Just bringing the right people on your team is probably one of the most important things. And so I we. We start with family. I was going to say yes and after and it took many, many years before we actually moved Meudon out of family, we thought we would always stay as a family team.

[00:05:04.790] - Brenda
And then the business grew so much that it was time to look for other people. But so we went by people we knew by accident, other extended family. And then when we met our family, we just went with personal referrals. And today it's the last thing I do is actually look for it by putting it, you know, add in. And indeed, and even when I did that, most recently, I actually went to one of my employees and said we had 75 resumes.

[00:05:37.070] - Brenda
And I said, go through the standard. Is there anybody in here that you know and that you would, you know, you would recommend and she picked out somebody and said, I went to school with her and she's the sweetest and nicest person you've ever met. And I said, well, let's let's interview her.

[00:05:54.770] - Brenda
And we interviewed a couple of other people, and she she she was perfect.

[00:06:02.000] - Brenda
I mean, she's been doing a phenomenal job and it's worked for us. And other times it hasn't, but it's rare.

[00:06:11.510] - Gabriel
Do you think one of the main reasons why it works and it worked really well for you is because when you're a family, you know, you at least know the core values that person has exactly what it really is about your values and how you were brought up has a huge impact.

[00:06:31.700] - Gabriel
And and if you're family, that's pretty ingrained. You all are very familiar with that.

[00:06:36.500] - Brenda
Yeah. So it's just it's just the way it is and you can't train. Nice.

[00:06:43.580] - Cody
That's so true. That's so true though. Yes. So I mean train it. Yeah. And I mean I guess that kind of answers. My other question is just this idea of like which, which is the most important, what's the most important thing to your organization, you know, as far as the mission, core values or the vision.

[00:07:00.540] - Brenda
It's really all three they're all connected, so one can't function without the other.

[00:07:10.050] - Gabriel
That's so good. So of those core values. How do you communicate them? I know if your family, like we said earlier, if you're family, a lot of those core values, you are very familiar with them and very much on board. But if you're starting to bring people in who aren't family, how do you go about communicating those?

[00:07:27.060] - Brenda
By just living it every day that the actions speak louder than words. Exactly. Exactly. In fact, there was a couple that came in with us and and they didn't have that kind of atmosphere and environment. And everybody was very to themselves. And when they came in, their body language was so different the first few days because they were really quiet. And but now, you know, after, you know, it didn't take that long, that they completely changed because they were feeling it from everybody else, that it was it's you know, you change with your environment and it just was awesome.

[00:08:08.190] - Brenda
It's an awesome transformation to see, you know, that is fantastic.

[00:08:13.680] - Cody
Now, I know that with with with your company, it's it's beautiful. So my sister is one of your one of your employees or one of your independent contractor independent contractors. And she's always just talked with me about how, you know, awesome it is to work with you in with the family. And she feels, you know, I feel like people are able to be vulnerable with your with your company, even on a personal sense, in their own personal values.

[00:08:41.460] - Cody
And I guess my question is, is like, what's the secret? Like, how do you actually pull out those core values out of people that are actually working with you? That can't be an easy thing.

[00:08:51.570] - Brenda
That is a great question. I think they need they they have to be comfortable with you and they have to trust you. It's about trust. Yeah.

[00:09:00.570] - Brenda
And not feel like they're asking stupid questions and not feel, you know, like it's just it's just a trust, I guess. Yeah. No, that's supposed to trust you and feel like they can ask anything and and they both feel uncomfortable about it.

[00:09:21.090] - Cody
Well and I think that that's so important too because like I mean our whole our whole podcast here is all about finding leadership within yourself. And so for us, it's like we want to be able to find ways to actually help our leaders bring out that trust, connection with their clients or with their partners or with the people that are a part of it. And I think it's true. Trust is such a big word that's massive.

[00:09:40.380] - Brenda
And it's and it's about doing the right thing, you know, and and say it and do what you say you're going to do.

[00:09:47.700] - Gabriel
It's so simple, but that's such a huge part of it. It's like if you can't trust your own word, who who's going to trust you?

[00:09:55.270] - Brenda
You always keep your word. Something that I learned from my dad. You know, for many, many years ago, that's fantastic. So you had mentioned that you work with your family and we're talking about core values, we're talking about trust.

[00:10:12.530] - Brenda
But at some point when you're working with your family, it has to become a bit overwhelming.

[00:10:16.820] - Gabriel
I imagine you're seeing the same people day in, day out at work and at home. How do you keep that kind of work life balance when your co-workers are your family?

[00:10:27.800] - Brenda
It's easy because we keep it separate as much as possible. Sometimes it comes out into conversations, but when we're together on a personal level, but it's pretty much off the table. And I mean, it wasn't easy at first, but we you know, we set rules and that was one of the rules once in a while that might come up. But it might be a three minute conversation at the most, but then we move on to personal things.

[00:10:56.000] - Gabriel
How hard is it to stick to those rules? Was it, like, really difficult the beginning and easier now or.

[00:11:01.800] - Brenda
Yeah, I would say so, yes, definitely. It's always been family first for us.

[00:11:08.690] - Brenda
So it was pretty easy. And and I'm very you know, I let them do their work and I do mine. So it's not like we're working together side by side and it's not like that at all because they're either out showing property, taking listings. I'm in the office and I'm doing my thing. And we have a meeting once a week. And so it it's it's it really works. Well, yeah.

[00:11:38.090] - Cody
That's fantastic. Now, do you ever take time to, like, Cast Vision with your independent contractors and other leaders?

[00:11:43.190] - Brenda
Yes, we do.

[00:11:44.040] - Brenda
We have vision boards that we do and that's volunteer if they want to come in to do it, you know, they do. And we'll do that at the beginning of the year. But we start talking about goals in November, OK? And and I was like, you know, share that November is like the beginning of the year for you. You know, this year, beginning of the year, November. Need to start talking about it now.

[00:12:09.590] - Gabriel
When faced with two equally qualified candidates, how do you choose between the two?

[00:12:16.170] - Brenda
Again, I would go with recommendations and with how I how I see the personality, one of the questions I had to ask the the candidate is like if they're in a situation where they have a client that's extremely, extremely upset, how do you handle that.

[00:12:44.340] - Brenda
That's a very important question because it kind of gives you the, it shows you what they can to stay calm or they can say is it going to be I think do they have any. I ask also if they have any anger issues.

[00:12:59.490] - Brenda
I have hard time with handling people who are angry as well. And I've had people tell me that they have definitely anger issues and they didn't get hired.

[00:13:10.490] - Cody
Yeah, yeah. No, that's a good point. And that's so that is definitely hard to like. You know, it's that whole concept of like the customer is always right kind of thing, but you as the sales associate or whatever you are the position, you're just like, I don't feel like this is right right now, you know, like and it just jerks with your emotions.

[00:13:28.320] - Cody
But that's so that's interesting. Now, with that being said, though, obviously there's a culture that you have created within your organization, which I think is a beautiful culture. And we've talked a little bit about kindness. We've talked about being patient and stuff and, you know, things like that. But how do you basically introduce that culture to new people in your organization?

[00:13:49.650] - Brenda
With my book.

[00:13:51.000] - Cody
That's genius.

[00:13:52.110] - Cody
That's so true and it's so true. And again, you guys need to buy this book. I'm serious. It is absolutely phenomenal. That's what a great answer. Right? Honestly, yeah.

[00:14:02.890] - Gabriel
So with that actually, to kind of piggyback off of that, what is one of the biggest challenges that you see leaders facing? So we're talking about culture. We talk about all these positive things, but to kind of take it in an opposite direction. What's one of the biggest challenges?

[00:14:21.010] - Brenda
The challenge is hiring the right people and putting them in the right positions is the other, because you can have somebody in sales, they're very detailed and that's great, but they may not be as good in sales as they could be in administrate as an administrator, you know, as far as doing the paperwork.

[00:14:46.310] - Brenda
And then you also can put somebody in a leadership position that you've had working for you for a long time, which I did.

[00:14:54.890] - Brenda
And she was great as a job, but she really wasn't a great leader because she had more of the mentality of being a boss instead of being a coach and a true leader would have servant's heart.

[00:15:12.230] - Brenda
She didn't she didn't have that. I tried talking to her, but she was sometimes when people are put in a position of power, it goes to their head.

[00:15:22.440] - Brenda
And unfortunately, that's what was happening. But fortunately, she led it up, moving away.

[00:15:31.700] - Brenda
So it all worked out. Yeah, that worked out one way or another. Yeah, it always works out. But and the thing is, I, I kept giving her books to read and you know, sometimes no matter what it does, you know, it just doesn't seem right.

[00:15:48.180] - Brenda
It's not their culture, it's not their personality, and they just don't get it.

[00:15:53.840] - Cody
And, you know, I feel like I can relate because I was in the direct sales industry in the past and it's like it's amazing because we have an energy in the room that's just really beautiful, you know, and you bring somebody who's super negative or somebody that just has not positive energy into that room. They almost dismiss themselves.

[00:16:12.410] - Cody
Like, you don't even have to dismiss them necessarily because they just do it themselves.

[00:16:15.050] - Brenda
That's exactly what has happened with you know, I did mention that was a few people I made a mistake on. And of course, she was great at what she had her other job was. And I thought that it was going to work out. And she was only with us in that leadership position a year, which worked out fine. And but yet she had been with us for over a decade before that.

[00:16:41.090] - Brenda
Yeah. So but. The other the what I watch, what made me think about is the fact that somebody we did have someone that was somewhat, you know, negative but a wonderful person in any other way. But there was something that was missing and I think it was beyond that person's control to be any different. But you're right, they do end up dismissing themselves. Yeah. And it's it's it's it's sad, but true. Yeah.

[00:17:19.440] - Brenda
So there are you know, you can't always get it right, but as long as you get it right most of the time. Right.

[00:17:27.120] - Gabriel
So of that, do you think that that's one of the common or biggest traits that can kind of derail a leadership path, is having that ego from that boss mentality, that negativity?

[00:17:39.900] - Brenda
Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. Because people will not gravitate to people that don't treat them right and don't value them. Definitely.

[00:17:52.710] - Brenda
Now, I think I might know the answer to this one, Brenda, because just after talking with you for, you know, the time that we have already, but just tell me, what is one of the characteristics that you believe leaders should possess the biggest servant's heart?

[00:18:04.410] - Brenda
Yeah.

[00:18:06.090] - Cody
I knew it. I nailed it in my head 100 percent, 100 percent. Especially reading your book. I would say the exam is like the legendary John Maxwell, the legendary Brenda Fontaine thing that is said.

[00:18:15.120] - Cody
You need to be a servant. That's beautiful. Where does that come from, by the way? Where did you pull that from?

[00:18:20.010] - Brenda
I always wanted to help people because I wanted to be a nurse when I when I was younger and I wanted to go to college, but my parents couldn't afford to send me. So that's was my goal was night. And I didn't lose, you know, I always had that. I was kept thinking even after I was married, you know, maybe I'll be able to afford at some point go back to college and become a nurse. And and I just I think helping people is so gratifying.

[00:18:47.130] - Brenda
And it's I loved helping sellers and buyers, you know, when I was an agent. And I thought I'd really miss that part of the business. But I absolutely love helping my agents to be successful. I really am passionate about having them be successful as they want to be. And it's really gratifying to see that happening. You know, I love it.

[00:19:15.450] - Gabriel
Do you think that's a necessary change for people to go from, let's say they're out there in the field doing the work like you. Were you out there showing houses, you're on the front lines to go from there to start leading people. Do you think that having that servant's heart, being able to make that mental change is important where instead of serving the customers, you then serving your team?

[00:19:37.230] - Brenda
Definitely. But I think you're also I think we're all leaders. You know what? We are leaders of our family. As an agent, you're still a leader, you know, leading and guiding your clients to a successful closing. And and I so I think we're all leaders now.

[00:20:00.510] - Cody
That's a really good point, actually. What a great way to own yourself as a human being. I feel like just to say, no, I am a leader. It's a question of where am I leading myself?

[00:20:10.860] - Brenda
You are the leader of your own life.

[00:20:12.780] - Cody
Yeah, exactly. And that's the thing. I wonder. You know, I feel like people look at the word leader as like a good thing, but we have got bad leaders, too, you know. That's true. And so that's really interesting. And what a way to own it. You know, right now, maybe this is a harder one to kind of talk about. But, you know, what's one mistake that you witnessed leaders making more frequently than others?

[00:20:36.000] - Brenda
Try to grow too fast. As far as in real estate, you know, the big thing is teams that's been for quite a few years now and we were the first company while I was the first agent, I need to say, to start a team in my area. And I did it slowly and very baby style baby steps throughout the whole the whole process, whereas a lot of agents who wanted to start a team, you know, did it quickly.

[00:21:18.180] - Brenda
And and it's the same thing with any business. And they just try to hire a lot of people all at once and they're not really building a strong team and they don't have a strong foundation. So when we did that, we started with a very strong foundation. And by doing it slowly, whereas if you do it very quickly, it's like a house of cards and it really blows up, especially when the market goes down. And I've seen many people try to build a bit, you know, build a team, which is a business.

[00:21:55.500] - Brenda
Yeah. And and and it just dissolved. So that would be the biggest mistake is to try to build something too fast.

[00:22:06.600] - Cody
Yeah, no, and I've seen that myself, so much like in the direct sales industry that I was in, I've seen people have success very fast, like just immediate success. But then after all of this success, they start to experience their failure moments and they just can't handle it. Like, it just it just destroys them, you know?

[00:22:26.030] - Brenda
And it's that's so interesting, you know, and they have anybody and anybody can that, you know. By not really checking them out or doing any background check or any. Oh, yeah, they just hire anybody that says they're ready to come on board and you can't do that. You have to be very choosy because your reputation depends on it, you know. Yeah.

[00:22:51.250] - Gabriel
Why do you think that people make that mistake? Do you think it's because of ego? Do you think it's simply a lack of experience that causes them to make this?

[00:23:00.310] - Brenda
I think ego is a huge thing. They just think that it's easy and you just have to get it. Put a bunch of people together and it becomes a team. But really, there are different types of teams and some are more groups. Put together a team. A team is. Actually helps each other out and are generous with each other and work together and don't compete against each other. And a group just does do their own thing and really a lot of teams are like that in my industry.

[00:23:43.560] - Brenda
So that makes a huge difference in the success that they experience.

[00:23:49.820] - Cody
Yeah, that's awesome. I think a lot of people that come into a business don't don't just immediately assume that they're going to be this leader. They typically come into this business feeling like I'm going to be told what to do because it's almost like that employee mentality. But when they come into play. But when they come into your business, it's like, no, no, no, you're my partner now.

[00:24:09.300] - Cody
And what we're going to do is, is we are now dubbing you leader. All right. And so how do you do that process with people like when they first come in?

[00:24:18.210] - Brenda
Well, we have to make sure that they need to understand that they are the owner of their own business. That's awesome. Yeah, they are the owner of their own business and they are just an umbrella and under us. And they have they'll they will do as well as they want to do, but they will have all the tools and all the support they could possibly have with us. But they just have to take responsibility for the fact that the the more they work and the more time they put into it now by working harder, but by working smarter and just following.

[00:24:58.960] - Brenda
Our guidelines and and, you know, coming to training and being involved in and setting goals, daily goals, and they will be successful.

[00:25:14.200] - Cody
Yeah, that's awesome. What's the most common thing that they come back to you with, like their struggles that you have to kind of reassure them?

[00:25:23.420] - Brenda
Mindset. They have to believe in themselves, but we also, you know, we're always. Recognizing any small win, there's so many wins , it doesn't have to just be the end goal, but you can have daily wins and we share our wins weekly with each other.

[00:25:50.330] - Brenda
So meetings, because I know I've actually seen there's a lot of pictures of you and your teams online with like trophies and certificates and stuff.

[00:25:59.230] - Cody
I think that's edification must be huge, right?

[00:26:01.690] - Brenda
Yes and yes. Praise recognition is so important and. It works. Yeah, it really does. And they could always, you know, one of the things that makes. The trust involved to as they know, they can reach us and they can talk to us, you know, and we'll get right back to them and them, the leadership team is enough of us that we can do that. You know, that they can get easy access to any any one of us pretty quickly, which is so important.

[00:26:34.820] - Brenda
So what we do is, you know, we make ourselves accessible and we are very responsive to to their needs because we also want to show a good example so that they can do that to their for their clients. And they do. You know, it's our mission to go above and beyond for our clients and add value and and and at the same time, it's also my responsibility. And that leadership team has responsibility to do the same thing for our agents so that it can just go down the line and they'll they'll treat them the way they're treated by us.

[00:27:13.640] - Cody
Yeah. Wow, that's beautiful.

[00:27:18.080]
That's a fantastic closer right there!

[00:27:24.560] - Cody
And For those of you who are local in the state of Maine or if you guys are in another state and you feel like a need to move to Maine or anywhere, do you sell out out of Maine as well?

[00:27:32.960] - Cody
Or were just in Maine now, but would actually that's one of our goals, is maybe doing something to expand to expand New Hampshire? Well, you're in how many you're in five counties now. Four or five, six, seven years.

[00:27:47.090] - Brenda
Seven now. We're only open eight counties.

[00:27:50.480] - Brenda
We have an Agent Booth, Bay Harbor Upswell. Wells.

[00:27:56.870] - Brenda
And you got two main offices, one out in the port area or Scarbrough and Auburn, Maine.

[00:28:01.860] - Cody
Yeah, that's awesome.

[00:28:02.750] - Cody
So if any of you guys listening to this podcast want to join the amazing Fontaine family, you should definitely hook up with us. Email us. Maybe we can put an email below that they can reach out to you or one of hear people. That's awesome. I do have any other questions






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