Boomer Foster: Lessons Learned in Business, Family, and Football
About This Episode
Go With John as he chats with Boomer Foster. Boomer is the President of General Brokerage at Long & Foster Real Estate. This wonderful conversation includes Boomer’s early life in a small town, his hilarious College Football stories, and his road to Long & Foster.
Long and Foster Website
[00:00:05] I just wrapped up my conversation with Boomer Foster. It was fantastic.
[00:00:09] He’s got some great stories about football, family trust and excellence and how they all tie together at home and at work. I hope you enjoy this episode.
[00:00:29] Hey, so I am really excited, genuinely excited, I’m always excited to be sitting down chatting with people, but we have Boomer Foster with us today and not only is he a friend, but he is the president of general brokerage at Long and Foster real estate companies, obviously, where I’m affiliated. And we’re going to chat today about a whole bunch of stuff. And I betcha we could talk for two or three hours, but we got limited time. So I want to kind of jump right into it. So welcome, Boomer.
[00:00:58] Thanks, John. It’s really an honor to be here. And I just would tell you that I’m kind of humbled that you would even ask. I said that would be so. I’m excited to be here, too, good.
[00:01:07] Well, thank you. So so let’s let’s talk about because I want to talk about a bunch of stuff today, but let’s talk a little bit about, you know, your family growing up. Where did you grow up? Let’s start with where you grew up and tell us about your family life when you were when you were a youngster.
[00:01:22] Yes. So I grew up in a little town just south of Atlanta, about 18 miles south of Atlanta called Jonesboro, Georgia. And kind of our claim to fame as its home of Gone with the Wind. So as I’m coming up in this little small town, you know, we had like Ashley Oaks and Tara and the stadium that I played football in high school was called Tara Stadium. So, you know, that’s kind of our thing. It was a home have gone with the wind. But it was you know, it’s an interesting childhood. It’s a different place now than it was when I was growing up. But it was a it was a great place. I mean, families just taking care of each other and looking out for each other. My family was my parents were two educators who met teaching English at Hapeville High School. My dad had just come home from Vietnam and mom and dad met when school first started. He was coaching football and she was teaching English as well. And so by I think December 31st, they were married. So you figure they start school in early September and they’re married by then, so. Wow. Yeah. So it was a great place. My dad, being raised by Marine was was a disciplinarian and wasn’t exactly like Prince of Tides, I think that book. But it was certainly if we were 15 minutes early, we were on time. But if we were 14 minutes early, we were late.
[00:02:34] Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. Well so my dad’s a Marine as well, so I grew up with that same rule. Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Exactly. So so.
[00:02:43] So your dad had some brothers and siblings so tell us a little bit about that.
[00:02:49] He did my dad have one older brother and two younger brothers and his older brother Wes Foster is the founder and was the CEO until we sold the company of Long and Foster Real Estate. And, you know, they didn’t come from anything.
[00:03:04] Their parents were. I think my my granddad worked at the had a fruit stand at the Atlanta market growing up. They grew up in Forest Park, Georgia. I don’t think my grandparents had air conditioning in their house. And you think about Georgia being as hot as it is during the summertime. I don’t think they had air conditioning in their house until we put it in for them in the early 80s. But he has Wes and younger brother Don, and the youngest brother was Terry and Don, and he were both attorneys down in. My dad were both attorneys and Wes and Terry. Both were in some form of real estate. Terry did a lot of real estate development right now.
[00:03:38] So so what was life? I mean, there are a lot of big personalities in your family.
[00:03:44] Yeah, no doubt. Yeah.
[00:03:46] So so what was life growing up around, you know, with your dad and your and your uncles and, you know, what was Christmas time like? Are the summers, summer vacations, things like do you have any memories or stories that.
[00:04:00] Well, I mean, I will tell you that it was a you know, it was a it was a great family to grow up. And West was not around.
[00:04:06] He was up in Northern Virginia, you know, growing his business. The other two brothers lived in and around where we were. And, you know, every Sunday after church, we would get together as a family. We would go to my grandparents house in Forest Park.
[00:04:19] We would watch professional football. Everybody would bring, you know, KFC chicken and somebody would bring some sides. And it was one of those things. It wasn’t like, you know, we spent all the time around a TV there. Sometimes we would just sit out in these old rickety furniture on the front porch of my parents, my grandparents home. And we would spend hours in the afternoon watching people walk by. And my grandmother would have a story for every single one of them. Yeah, I guess back then it wasn’t like now I mean, we’re sort of a cocooning society.
[00:04:49] You get up in the morning, your garage door goes up, you go to work and you come back, garage door comes back down. And most people don’t know the vast majority of people in their neighborhood. My grandmother knew everybody within about five square miles of where her house was. So she had a story for everybody. So.
[00:05:04] So what you’re saying is your grandma was Facebook back in the day.
[00:05:07] Yes, right.
[00:05:07] If you needed to know what was going on in somebody’s life, the Frances Foster could tell you what was going on in their life. Yeah, that’s wonderful. Right. So.
[00:05:16] So. And then you have you have a sister.
[00:05:20] Do you have any other siblings or is know one one sister. Thirteen months older. I think I was a mistake or surprise.
[00:05:26] I think that when I was conceived, my parents didn’t know that they could get pregnant. So I think after I came out, they said, enough is enough, let’s get spayed and neutered and, you know, two is enough and is kind of the same way I was with my kids. You know, my son came. I said, you know, that’s plenty. So my sister is a you know, she’s a fabulous person.
[00:05:45] She’s one of my best friends in the world, very supportive. You know, growing up in a small town together. She’s unbelievably smart. She went to, you know, graduated from firm and got her masters, got her PhD from Georgia. She’s a part of Long and Foster now. And you may ask me in a little while about her kidney story, but.
[00:06:03] Well, let’s talk about let’s let’s talk about it now.
[00:06:04] And I’ll just I’ll just add to the folks listening. No, Rachel was my manager, Long and Foster McLean for a period of time. So and she is a solid individual. But the whole let’s let’s talk about the kidney. So Rachel donated one of her kidneys. And I think it really ties back to your family values. And I think that it’s you know, there’s there are there are a lot of things within the Long and Foster organization that are really amazing to me. But I think the values come from the top down. And I talk about this all the time. I used to own a marketing company called Marketing Mania, and I was the primary salesperson for that company. I did all the sales and I had a team of people behind me who would, you know, kind of fill the orders and make sure everything I said happened, which was sometimes a challenge. And it didn’t take long for me to realize that. You could tell, by the way a business relationship was going to go by the first or second time you ever went into anybody’s organization. You could learn when you did when you do it over and over and over, you can feel the culture. And I can tell you, one of the things I love about Stanley Martin and Long and Foster is that the family and the corporate culture within your organizations is is strong and it’s deep and it’s and it’s there. And you feel it every day. And I can say it and people can say it. But when when you think about culture and values and what Rachel did, it’s amazing. So tell us what what Rachel did.
[00:07:34] Well, I’ll tell you when when we when you talk about our corporate culture, we talk about being a company of trust, family and excellence, because, you know, those three things mean different things to different people. But I think what Rachel did and donated her kidney actually epitomizes what we think about as a company because it wasn’t like she donated her kitty to her best friend or to one of her family members. One of our managers husband was in a situation where his his kidneys were failing, needed a kidney transplant, was having a very hard time. You know, he was in a in a desperate situation, was finally having a very hard time finding anybody who was a match. And my sister very selflessly started praying about it. And, you know, she she figured she would go and find out whether or not she was a person that could potentially donate a kidney. Not that she had made the decision to actually do that. But, you know, I’m sure in taking that test, you know, if I will just put myself in that space, if I were the person taking that test, I would probably have my fingers crossed that please, please, God, if this is, you know, if this is what you want me to do, OK? But I really prefer not to give one of my kidneys. But my sister is such a selfless person. You know, she went in there and she took the test and it came back and she was a match. And she had the opportunity by giving an organ to save somebody else’s life, but not somebody that she was close to.
[00:08:54] Right. And it wasn’t somebody that she shared blood with or that she grew up with or that she had any special relationship with. In fact, it was something somebody she really didn’t know very well. And she came back and she found out she was a match and she prayed about it and she felt like that was something that God was leading her to do. Right.
[00:09:09] And she did it in the story. I mean, for me, you know, I made a joke with her. I said, gosh, Rachel, you know, I hope you don’t ever need a kidney because, you know, because I’m not sure I could do that even for you. But she you know, just to watch the selflessness of that act was humbling. And, you know, she didn’t complain about anything. She went in I think they picked her up the morning to take her into surgery.
[00:09:34] I picked her up a few days later to bring her back from respin after doing the surgery.
[00:09:37] And, you know, you’re down for two weeks and she didn’t want help. She you know, she she she tried to live as normally as she could during those time, during that time period. And she didn’t complain one time. I mean, I’m sure that it was a painful thing. It was a major surgery. And that selflessness is something that I frankly envy. You know, I try to be selfless and all that I do. But the idea of actually stepping out and risking my own life to save the life of somebody else. Hmm. I don’t know that I could have done it right. So I don’t know. I’m just so proud of her. She’s a you know, she’s special and a bunch of ways. I mean, she’s hurt. She’s she’s smart. She’s driven, you know, she’s talented.
[00:10:19] And but to think about, you know, that level of, you know, essentially godliness and selflessness, it’s just kind of humbling. Your brother?
[00:10:29] Yeah, yeah, it is it’s an amazing story. You know, I’m I’m yeah, it’s it’s it’s just I mean, I’m speechless. It’s I think you’ve said it all, so we’ll leave it right there.
[00:10:40] I mean, it’s pretty amazing. I agree with you. I don’t think I would do it either. Yeah, it’s it’s it’s amazing.
[00:10:47] So so so let’s talk about your dad a little bit. So so grown up with your dad and your mom, obviously, when you were young, you know. You know, so he was a Marine. I get it. But, you know, what are the things that he do to kind of instill because you guys have great values. So it had to come from somewhere. Right. So so obviously the Marine Corps preaches values very deeply. And you got some of that. But so can you tell us a little bit about what it was like growing up?
[00:11:17] Yeah, I mean, I’ll tell you, my dad always told us that we don’t lie, cheat or steal or tolerate those who do.
[00:11:22] So that was kind of what we we grew up with. And, you know, if you told a fib in our house, the punishment was worse than about anything else you could possibly do. It wasn’t like my dad wasn’t a physically abusive guy, but he was a relatively intimidating guy. And he reminds me a lot of my uncle. The only two people that ever really intimidated me were Wes Foster and my dad. I mean, I would sit in his office having gotten in trouble at school, and I would just start crying, you know, because I’m like I know that I disappointed him because so so when you talk about how he instilled that in us when he modeled it right, you know, he got up every day. He did the work ethic that I that I have and that my sister has, I believe comes from watching what he did with his law practice. You know, he would work long hours, but he would always make time to be home for dinner with us. And he would always check in with us and see how we were doing. You know, how we how he could help us. You know, when we had issues, he always had wise counsel and he was a tough dude. So, you know, like I remember, I played all sorts of sports growing up and there’s, you know, countless times when I would fall over and something would be hurt and I would lay on the ground. I could hear him screaming from the and I’m not screaming from the stands. Get up, boy, you’re not hurt.
[00:12:39] So it backfired on him.
[00:12:40] Actually, one time when I was a kid, I was playing baseball and, you know, I played shortstop, I played centerfield and I played catcher. So this one time on this one game, I was playing catcher and I was behind the plate. Ball gets past me. I turn and it bounces off the back stop. And I catch it with my free hand, the hand without the glove on. And there’s a kid coming home from third on the pass ball. And I sprint back and I stick the ball down to tag him out, which I did. But he slid into my hand and he broke my thumb. Oh my gosh. And my thumb was was hanging. And I’m sitting there, you know, shaking my hand. Yeah. And I hear my dad go shake it off.
[00:13:15] Boy, you’re not hurt. And I held my hand up and my thumb kind of just dangled there. And I said, I think I’ve heard this. So yeah.
[00:13:26] Yeah. He didn’t feel so good about that one. But the one that took me to the hospital and sat with me through surgery and all of that.
[00:13:31] But he was just a neat guy. I mean, when I played college football, he did not miss one game. That’s amazing. Yeah. I mean, I’m playing in the FCC and we’re traveling all over the country to play these games. And he you know, Jonesborough was three and a half hours from Columbia, South Carolina. So even the home games, you know, were challenges, I would guess, to get to. But even my freshman year, you know, I go into my freshman year, there’s no expectation for me to start. Right. And I was surprised that I didn’t get redshirted. And so the first couple of games my freshman year, I think we played we might have played Duke, we played Virginia Tech, and then we played West Virginia, those three games. And I was playing on special teams.
[00:14:09] I think I was on kickoff return and I was probably on extra point and field goal.
[00:14:14] So not much of anything. No reason to come watch your son play. You’re always third string tight end on those teams. Yeah. And he was there. Yeah. And, you know, he was always I don’t I don’t know that he missed many of my little league games on any of the sports that I played. And there was always something in season. So he made sure that we understood that, that God was first, family was second, and then everything else can prioritize after that, you know, your job and what you give back to the community is really important, but it’s not as important as the other two things. Right. So, you know, he instilled that in us and we try to I know Rachel does, but I’ll tell you, I try to model that I’m getting a little terrace. I’m thinking about it. But because he passed away my first year law school. Right. Right. It was he was a neat guy. And people talk about, you know, you’re twenty two when your dad passed away. And, you know, and I just I tell people, look, I’m thankful to have had him for those twenty two years because I’d rather have twenty two years with Larry Foster than 80 years with some other dad. Right.
[00:15:15] So anyway, right now that’s great. Thanks for sharing that. And and you know, you put that on Facebook here on Father’s Day. And I and I read that your dad never missed one game in four years and.
[00:15:28] You know, it’s it’s it touched me as well.
[00:15:31] Well, I’ll tell you a story I was which is he you know, he would be that. I’ll give you two quick stories about college football. They would come to these late night games and sometimes they didn’t want to stay in hotels.
[00:15:42] They would just drive back to Jonesboro. And one time he came to one of our games. I don’t remember which one it was. And he and my uncle Don were driving back to Georgia because they must have had it might have been a Thursday night game.
[00:15:52] So they had work the next day and he’s asleep and he goes through, he’s driving and he’s asleep and he goes through a stop sign almost home. And Uncle Don still awake. He doesn’t realize my dad’s asleep. So he looks over there and so he’s asleep. And then the second one was my sophomore year.
[00:16:08] We were playing Clemson at Clemson and they had a great defensive end who beat me up during the entire game. And I was holding him one time and my thumb got stuck in his jersey and it it ripped the tendon off of my bone. Right. And I played the rest of the game because I didn’t want him screaming, you know, shake it off, boy. Not hurt, you know. Eighty thousand people. Right. So but I come out, the doctors look at my thumb, they say you’re going to need surgery was the last game of the year and they scheduled me for surgery the next morning. My dad drives my family back from Clemson, which to Atlanta is maybe an hour and a half or two hours. And I was going into surgery seven o’clock the next morning and getting out of Clemson. There’s traffic. And, you know, he I think he got home at two and he was there, you know, with me before I went into surgery at seven o’clock the next.
[00:16:54] Wow. Yeah. Wow. That is amazing. Yeah, that is amazing. So you’ve got some great memories. I do. That is awesome.
[00:17:02] So let’s let’s talk a little more about football. So let’s go tell me tell me the nineteen ninety one story where you were in the locker room. Florida.
[00:17:13] Florida State. Florida State. Yep. Yeah. So in nineteen ninety one, South Carolina was not yet in the SEC my freshman year.
[00:17:20] It was their last year of us being independent. So we played Georgia Tech and Duke and Virginia Tech and West Virginia and and Clemson.
[00:17:28] And a lot of these teams were not SCC teams, but so but in nineteen ninety one Florida State was a different team than they are today. They were in the middle of about an eighteen year run of finishing in the top five in the country. So these guys were absolutely no joke. They were full grown men.
[00:17:46] Right. Who and I’m eighteen years old. Right. They are full grown men who the vast majority of whom in the two days before their state were about to go play and get paid for playing on Sundays.
[00:17:55] Right. So so we went down to Florida State, you know, and we didn’t have a lot of expectations. I think it was probably the second or third game of our year. And Doug Campbell Stadium was not what it is today. Today it holds eighty five thousand. Back then, it was it was a bunch of bleachers. It’s fifty something thousand people. But they were smart because they put the student section on top of the visitor’s locker room. And if anybody knows for, say, Florida State or the Seminoles. So.
[00:18:22] Dunn No, no, no, no. They do the chop and all of that stuff. And on top of the and they’ve got Chief Osceola who comes out with a spear and he’s riding a horse before the game in the spears’ flaming. And he looks at you in the horse, rears up and he pounds the spear into the middle of the Seminole. And then you’re looking around going, this is not good. You know, so even worse, though, I’m just telling you, we’re sitting in there before the game. I’m eighteen years old. A year before I was playing in front of a few hundred people, maybe a thousand on a good night. Right. And we’re about to go play the number two team in the country. Yeah. And the studio section, like I said, was on top of the visitor’s locker room. And there’s these.
[00:19:01] It’s essentially a bleep a bunch of bleachers. And with their feet before the game, they start doing the Indian the drum war drum chant thing.
[00:19:09] There’s a bump, bump, bump, bump, bump, bump up with their feet on top of the visitors locker room. And I’m looking around going, oh, they’re going to kill us.
[00:19:18] And, you know, and everybody else is kind of looking around and I’m thinking, you know, this is on national television. We’re about to go get embarrassed.
[00:19:25] I’m sure that my ex-girlfriend from high school is going to watch with great glee as we’re taking apart the number two team in the country. And my mind was that right?
[00:19:34] I normally tell that story. And that’s from the context of getting your mind right, because the coach walks into the locker room is Sparky Woods at the time and he looks around and he goes, get your mind right, boys, get your mind right.
[00:19:45] And I’m going, this is really difficult to get your mind right in this situation.
[00:19:50] So we went out there and I remembered it wrong. I actually looked it up this morning how bad we got beat because I thought we were relatively close because it felt close. But they beat us like thirty eight to 14 for us.
[00:20:01] Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So so so how, how did you manage to get your mind right.
[00:20:07] Did you get your mind right or did you just go out there quaking in your will tell you that.
[00:20:11] I’m not sure that I had to necessarily get my mind as right. I did play on on as a tight end and that and not just on special teams. I caught a pass and the moment I caught it and there weren’t a whole lot of running because I wasn’t very fast, if I caught it in the touchdown or in the end zone, that’s how I scored a touchdown. There wasn’t a lot of running. Into the end zone for me, right? But I call it a pass and ran about two yards and some linebacker running a forfour planted his helmet into my ribs and I had to scrape up the side of my my I had so I left limping.
[00:20:43] But and your dad was there, I should tell you, you’re not hurt.
[00:20:47] Well, it’s funny because my mom’s from Florida and her family was there and, you know, she’s a gator, but her brother and sister are Florida State fans. So, you know, they’re looking at as we’re coming out after the game and, you know, they’re looking at us with such sympathy.
[00:20:59] I’m like, I’m just glad I’m still alive. Right. OK, don’t feel bad for me. I’m glad we’re not dead. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
[00:21:07] I think the first time I heard that story, you you said when you were listening to the the the war drums on the top of the locker room, you were thinking to yourself, this is the day that I’m going to they’re going to kill us.
[00:21:19] Yeah. Yeah.
[00:21:21] I’ll tell you another one that’s funny is my sophomore year we were playing the University of Georgia and they were pretty good, too. They weren’t Florida State at that time and they were not as good as they are today. But it was the University of Georgia.
[00:21:30] It’s a great football team. So. Right. We were it was our first game in the SCC. You know, I was starting by that point and I ran a seam route kind of up the hash and the quarterback hung me out. I mean, he just flew through it. Hi. I jumped up. I got my hands on the ball, but there was a, you know, a two hundred and twenty pound strong safety sitting on the hash that he apparently didn’t see.
[00:21:55] And that guy’s running a four or five into my midsection. So my body folds around him and I hit the ground. All of the breath is knocked out of me. I’m scared because I can’t get breath. And so I’m sitting there on my hands and knees.
[00:22:09] And we’re at Williams Stadium, which is the University of South Carolina Stadium. And so there’s, you know, seventy five thousand people there. Ten thousand of those people are Georgia fans. But all I can hear is the Georgia fans going.
[00:22:25] SCC SCC SCC. Everything else is quiet. So.
[00:22:28] Wow. Yeah. Wow. Great memories. Yeah.
[00:22:31] I’d go back and do it again.
[00:22:37] I’m John Jorgensen and if you’re contemplating a real estate transaction, reach out to us through the Go with John website and we can put you in touch with one of our network of great agents. Go with John Dotcom. So so let’s. So tell me a little more. Tell us right, everybody that’s listening here, how how do you think your experience with with the team sports has contributed to your success in business?
[00:23:13] So I think that the two things that I took away from being an athlete, whether it’s just through high school and then into college or leadership and hard work, you know, every day when I go into work, you know, my mindset is, you know, I’m not the smartest guy in the building in all likelihood, but nobody’s going to outwork me. And that that, too, came from when I first started practicing law in Charleston. One of the best lawyers down there. He looked at me, said, listen, you’re not always going to be the smartest guy in a courtroom, but you can always outwork the other guy or girl that’s on the other side. And so the way I approach my job and it’s been refined and evolved over the years because it used to be like I was just a big a bull in a china shop. I’m going to work as hard as I can from the time I get up to the time I go to sleep at night and good things are going to happen. And that did happen. But what I found is as I started refining and started thinking about where I want to be and setting goals and having a plan, when you put those things together with a work ethic, then the results are going to be very good if you have any sort of talent. So, you know, team sports taught me that no matter how tired you get, you can always do more. I don’t think anything I ever did compares to what Navy SEALs do, but they always say, you know, I love reading Navy SEALs books because there’s such tough dudes. You know, they talk about the only easy day was yesterday. And so for me, you know, it’s you know, what it really taught me is the value of a really significant work ethic. And that leadership is about doing not saying because, you know, you get a lot of vocal people who profess to be leaders and they’ll say one thing, but when you watch them perform, they’ll do something completely different. Right. And I think you’ve got to have a consistency. Like I want to lead by example. If I don’t want to ask somebody to do something, then I’m not willing to do myself. So if we’re talking about, you know, managers or regional managers and you’re talking about, you know, making contacts and recruiting and building relationships, I don’t have legitimacy. If I’m sitting in the ivory tower and saying, you guys need to be doing this. If all I’m doing is sitting in the ivory tower, you’re not out doing that myself. So leadership by example is something that I learned in football because I was very vocal when I first got to college. And and by the time, you know, at the end, it wasn’t about, you know, do as I do. It wasn’t about do as I say.
[00:25:37] Right, right. Right. Excellent. So college practice law. For how long did you practice?
[00:25:44] You know, when I got out of college, I went to law school at the University of South Carolina.
[00:25:49] I practiced law for about eight years. I took a job in Charleston, South Carolina, for about the first four. Yeah. When I came out of law school. And then I went to to join a law firm in Columbia, South Carolina. Did I was a litigator, right? I did defense work for mostly insurance companies. I was corporate counsel for a couple of different companies out of the Midwest and one out of Tennessee. But yeah. So I practiced law for about eight years and then around two thousand four.
[00:26:16] Two thousand five. My uncle started talking to me about coming back and joining the family business. And I’ll tell you, growing up, I always wanted to be part of one of the two family businesses.
[00:26:23] I wanted to practice law with my dad or I mean, I’ve got something when I was a kid where I said, I want to be the president of Long and Foster. So I want to because that familial thing means so much to me. Right.
[00:26:34] And being a part of something bigger than me always meant so much to me. So my dad obviously passed away my first year law school. So the law to go back and practice law passed away with him. Right. I wasn’t going to move back to Georgia to do that with him not being there, because that was the reason I wanted to be there. But I was already into law school, so I wanted to finish law school, prove I could do what I was doing. And I actually didn’t think about joining long a foster for a very long time. But then he started saying, hey, listen, I’m not going to make any promises. If you come up here, I think you’ll be good at this business. I think you’ll have some opportunities if you come in here and you work hard and you’re better than other people. You know, you outwork everybody else, but there are no promises. So we I made a leap of faith.
[00:27:18] It was like, hey, you know, I’ve got this corner office and I’m a partner in a law firm and I’ve got a couple of paralegals and a secretary. And I went from that to being a real estate agent and having a cubicle, having no I mean, I had support from the standpoint of, you know, we get training, coaching, mentoring. It’s that long and foster. But I didn’t have anybody else to do my work for me. Right. And so but I will tell you that when you compare the reward of what I was doing, practicing law, which was essentially representing big insurance companies, and if you win, you win. If you lose your lose, there’s really no. Yeah. True self. Earth to it at the end of the day, it’s like unless you just want to it’s about winning or losing to actually helping people, which is what I found with real estate. I don’t regret it for a second. Right. So I came up here and worked, busted my fanny as a real estate agent, did really well, treated it like a business. And I love to be in a real estate agent because at the time I came up here, the first part of 2006 and prices were starting to go in the other direction. Yeah, it was the start of what was going to turn into the Great Recession. Yeah, expired and withdrawn and for sale by owners were an opportunity for somebody who didn’t have a sphere. Yes. Actually build their business. And I would be the first one in my office to start the day and I would be the last one in my office when the day ended because I was going to come in and I was going to work harder than everybody else was and I was successful doing it. So it was an interesting transition because I didn’t I didn’t sell for very long. I did very well while I did, but only sold for about two years. And then my uncle says, hey, you want to get into management? And I said, you know, what does that mean?
[00:28:56] You know, I mean, I’m enjoying this. I’m making I made more money my first year as a real estate agent than my last year as a partner in a law firm. Yeah. So there’s I loved eating what I killed.
[00:29:07] And I love the fact that there was no ceiling on what I could make. Right. And he said, well, I’ve got this great opportunity for you in Kingstown, which is a little town that’s part of Alexandria, Virginia. We’ve got this office and the manager just quit and, you know, it’s got thirty five agents and it’s got a gym in the building. It’s got plenty of parking and I think you’ll do great. Yeah. And what I found out was I was like, OK, that sounds like a good idea. So I took a monstrous pay cut. Yeah. To go be a manager. Then what I found out was of the thirty five agents there were there, only about eight of them had ever sold any real estate. But it was probably one of the most rewarding jobs I’ve ever had in my life because essentially we paired that thirty five down to the eight. Yeah. And, and that group of people with me started building that office back up during the Great Recession. So from until about you know, from about the middle part of 2007, late part of 2007 until 2010, we built that office from eight people to 90 people in a recession. Right. Because we all cared about each other and we all came together. And I did you know, I did a lot of training. I did a lot of coaching. I did a lot of mentoring. And I was able to watch people go from one part of their career to a higher level. Right. And I was able to get people who were just getting into the business who had been fired because the Great Recession is now in full effect. Yes. And help them find a career. Yeah. And so every I was excited to go to work every single day as a real estate manager because I could help change I could help somebody do better. Right. And help change people’s lives, which is if you compared that to practicing law. I love the competition of the courtroom, whether it be in an appellate court or a trial or something like that. But the monotony of living your life in six minute increments was very difficult for me.
[00:30:48] Yeah. Oh, I can imagine. I can imagine.
[00:30:51] Yeah, there’s boy, there’s a lot there that you just said we could talk about, and that’s why I started the show. We could talk for hours, but but you know, I’ll add to that. So in 2006, that’s when I teamed up with Stanley Martin Custom Homes, and I was just working really, really hard. And I remember there were lots and lots of agents around me saying, I don’t know why you’re working so hard. You should just relax and wait till this passes. This is going to blow over. You know, we’re in the middle of a recession and you’re you know, you’re you’re you’re you’re beating a dead horse. And, you know, for you and me, it was a great opportunity to go out there and seize the moment and take advantage of whatever it is. Right. Because the economy’s changing. The world is changing all the time. And it was a great time to go out and really aggressively go after business and find out what is the new normal going to be. And all those agents that were saying we’re just going to ride it out, they rode it right out of town. I mean, they’re golden.
[00:31:47] They never hung low in real estate between 2000 and 2005. Exactly. Because anybody and everybody could get a mortgage. I mean, if you had a heartbeat and you could fog a mirror or a mortgage company would give you money to buy a house, which is what led to the recession, because a lot of people shouldn’t have been buying houses that were buying houses. Exactly. And our homeownership rate got up to like 70 percent. But those agents had didn’t have to learn the skill set to survive in a down time. That’s all I knew was a down time. And what I found was, look, if you work while no one else is working, you’re going to have success that no one else is having. The Saturday mornings I was working the holidays and most people are saying, you know, I’m going to take some time off. I’m in there making calls and making contacts, and then I’ll be home in the afternoon to celebrate Memorial Day or Labor Day or July Fourth or, you know, Columbus Day or whatever like that. So and that’s the same thing. Like when you for our for our industry, it’s interesting to watch because it’s so cyclical. You know, you have a spring market that normally starts in January and start in those houses, start hitting settlement type tables in the middle of spring, and then the fall normally slows down. But it slows down a lot because real estate agents stop working as much as they did before. And I thought if I continued with. With my plan every single day, well, no one else is working, my spring market was going to be so much better, right?
[00:33:02] No, it’s true. And, you know, I think this is also really a good opportunity to just spend a few minutes talking about, you know, what is it to be a real estate agent and what is real estate? Because I don’t think, you know, we could sit here for four hours and hours and hours and tell stories about what it is to be a realtor. But until you get your license and you’re selling and you’re sitting in somebody’s living room and you’re working with them trying to sell a house and you go through the process, you never really know what it is. And in fact, you can go through it over and over and over again. You know, my mom, Lillian Jorgensen’s, been an agent for decades and she still has things that that come up. And I think most folks out there think being a real estate agent is, you know, putting, you know, cleaning up a house and putting a sign in the front yard and selling it, or you’ve got buyers in your car or you’ve got buyers on the Internet and you’re helping them buy a house. But this this industry, this profession is so complex. And, you know, so let’s talk a little bit. What what would you say to somebody if you were sitting down right now talking to somebody who’d never been in real estate before? Maybe they’ve had a law practice like you had and you were telling them how would you describe the real estate profession to another professional who’s already been out there in another field, who is coming into real estate?
[00:34:20] Well, I would start by saying, look, it looks really easy, but it’s not. A lot of people look at our industry and they say, I like looking at houses and I can calculate three percent of just about anything. I would be really good at that. But which you find when you get into this industry is there’s about an 80 to an 85 percent fall fall out rate, meaning you take the classes, you get your license within 12 months, 80 to 85 percent of those people are no longer in our business because they fall out is because they come in and they think, well, this is flexible. I’m an independent contractor. I can work when I want to and I’ll make money on.
[00:34:50] What you actually find out is if you’re not working a schedule, if you don’t have a plan, if you haven’t been trained and coached, and if you don’t have the tools and resources you need, you’re going to fall out of this business. And so what I find it is a little bit crazy about our industry is, is that it’s the biggest investment most people make in their lives. You know, when you think about the average price point around Northern Virginia is north of five hundred fifty thousand dollars right now, most people will never make an investment in their life of five hundred and fifty thousand dollars other than their house. And somebody can be a real tour in 30 days. Right. And so not all real estate agents are created equally. And what I found is it doesn’t matter your educational background, it doesn’t matter, you know, what your prior profession is. What really matters is do you have a fire in your belly and are you really willing to treat this business like a business and be a true professional? Because it’s not. You talked about getting the house ready to be sold and put a sign in the front yard. You know, that’s the very least somebody should be doing. What what real estate agents are today is they should be trusted advisers on a very complicated, complex transactions.
[00:36:00] They should know the marketplace is better than anybody else. And, you know, they need to be expert negotiators. And those are skill sets that not everybody develops or can develop. Right. So the reason you have such a high fall out rate, I think, in our industry is, one, the expectations coming into it or that it’s going to be simple and it proves to be a very difficult profession, a very rewarding profession, but a very difficult profession. And then to the vast majority of companies out there, they sort of they don’t train, they don’t coach, they don’t mentor. These people come into their organizations and they sort of push them out like a little bird being pushed out of the nest for the first time. They’re going to fly and they plummet and their careers end because they don’t have anybody actually helping them become what they should be, which is a true real estate professional, a true trusted advisor through a complex transaction.
[00:36:51] Yeah, and I think I think I would add to that to that that there are a lot of things that land on your cell phone or land on your desk that you never expected and you could have never anticipated. You know, you have I think you you get into a relationship with a family or an individual. And a lot of times these folks don’t tell you what’s really going on when you start the process. So, for example, you could go and you could go meet a couple who wants to sell their house. So you take the listing, you sign the listing agreement and you get into the transaction. And then maybe a month later you start feeling there’s something not right here. And then they confide in you, hey, we’re getting divorced and we’re we’ve got to sell this house. And then, you know, the stories start coming out and you get kind of sucked into a situation that you thought, hey, wait a minute, I came here to sell your home, not be your marriage counselor. Right. But but you got to be equipped, I think, to handle these types of of of situations when they come up.
[00:37:50] You know, and it’s interesting because we look at different professions because normally real estate is not somebody. Profession, normally they’ve done something else and now they want to give their their try their hand at doing this profession and so we can look at different professions and know which ones are probably going to have a higher likelihood of success. And it’s interesting because teachers getting into our profession normally have a higher likelihood of success than others do because their patients. Yes. And because of their their willingness to listen to people. Right. And so they come in here with a skill set that you have to develop over time. That’s absolutely necessary. You’ve got to be a great listener and you’ve got to be you’ve got to be patient and compassionate and empathetic.
[00:38:34] That’s exactly right. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
[00:38:37] So, so but I will say just, you know, talk a little bit about Long and Foster. You guys have more training and more tools and more things than anybody could ever possibly consume. And the great thing about that is all humans are different. All humans learn in different ways and all humans want to work with different types of tools. So it’s it’s a great place to be a real estate agent. If you need training, if you need support, it’s there. John Jorgenson here. If you want to become a real estate agent, contact us through the Go with John show at Go with John Dotcom and we will put you in touch with a professional over at Long and Foster who can walk you through the process.
[00:39:20] Again, that’s go with John Dotcom.
[00:39:25] Kind of want to segway a little bit and talk about corporate and what’s going on with covid and all that. But but you talk a lot about family trust and values and you talk about your family in the long and foster family. But you also talk about when you talk about family in the context of long and foster, what do you mean?
[00:39:43] So, you know, like I said, when when I first started talking about trust, family and excellence, those three things mean different things to different people. Right. So family, what that means to me is that when you have when you have a good time in your office as an agent, meaning something goes well for you, we’re going to have an attitude of abundance. So everybody around you should be circling around you and celebrating, even though they’re not getting anything from it, because that’s what a family does. And if you have a tough time, whether that tough time is professionally or personally, this company will not cut and run and leave you hanging out there as a because you’re a member of our family.
[00:40:21] So when I talk about family, I do consider the 2500 employees and the 10000 agents as a part of my family. So and you know this every time I talk to somebody in this company is like, hey, if I can ever help you in any way, personally and professionally, you pick up the phone and give me a call and I will come running. And I do.
[00:40:39] You do I absolutely. You do so because I believe that’s what a family does.
[00:40:44] And so I know you didn’t ask about this, but the trust thing, I think trust is a big part of family. But I also think that trust is something that’s that means different things to different people because but most people here trust they hear character. And I believe that trust is about your ISP and your yes and your no being your no. And I think that’s the most important thing in any organization. But it’s also about competency. So when you talk about our training programs and us offering things out, you know, digitally and in person and all of various different ways, you can learn this craft at long and foster competency is a huge piece of trust. So when our agents or our consumers need to talk to one of our managers or our regional managers or me or somebody at headquarters with shared services, they need to feel good that the person on the other end of that phone is competent to help them throughout whatever situation that is.
[00:41:33] So those three things, trust, family and excellence are, you know, kind of interdependent in all kind of work together to create the culture that we have here at Long and Foster.
[00:41:43] Yeah, I agree completely. It’s a great, great culture.
[00:41:46] And it’s it’s a it’s a it’s a fun place to work. I think it’s we’re in a competitive industry, but I think in the office where I am in McLean, we all work together. I think the feedback from the other agents in our office is, wow, there’s a different culture that exists here, especially agents that come from other companies that they haven’t experienced in other places.
[00:42:11] Well, it’s the scarcity mentality that that is prevalent throughout our industry and in a lot of these other companies.
[00:42:19] It’s you know, if somebody else in some of these different companies, if somebody else in their office does well, they’re not happy for them. Right. Or if they have a problem, that other person is kind of celebrating that they have a problem because they think that makes it better for them. Yeah, what we found is that and it started with WS, I mean, you know, in nineteen sixty eight West and Hank and one agent and the way he grew that is because the people genuinely knew that he cared about them. Right. And that, you know, he was going to be there for them. And there was an abundance mentality and he always put people before profits. Right. And the great thing is, is when you do that the profits come. And so you went from two people and one agent in a little I think it was in Annandale when they started a little office in Annandale to, you know, 10000 agents and two hundred thirty offices, seven states in the District of Columbia, because he understood selflessness and empathy better than anybody else did at the time.
[00:43:13] Yeah, but, you know, I would say also spent a lot of time on the front line with the agents who did. I mean, he came you know, I remember two thousand four or five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten. I mean I mean, it’s been a few years we haven’t seen was in the offices on a regular basis. But he used to come to our sales meetings all the time.
[00:43:29] I mean, it was when he did that. And it’s the same reason I do it today is not so much to be a talking head and to go out there and say and to communicate. That was part of it. But more importantly to him and more importantly to me when I’m doing it now, is I want to get feedback directly from the agents. I want them to say what you’re doing right, what you’re doing wrong, what you can do better, because we’re not growing as an organization if the field isn’t telling us how to. You know what? We’re we’re failing them. Yeah. So, I mean, that’s how the whole idea of trust, family and excellence in communicating that came about because we felt like we were doing a really poor job of telling the field who we were as a company and expecting them to hold us accountable to being just that. I don’t think we can try to hold other people accountable if we’re not accountable ourselves.
[00:44:08] Yeah, you’re right. And you guys do a great job at it and you really do.
[00:44:10] And it was just one of the guys, too. I mean, this is a guy who became extremely wealthy during his lifetime. Yeah. Came from nothing. You know, that the house he grew up in was and then my my my dad and his brothers grew up and it was just a little bitty nothing.
[00:44:24] And just south of Atlanta, he comes from nothing. But he never he never was full of himself. I mean, when you guys would go on these gold team trips, he’s sitting in coach.
[00:44:34] Yeah. Mean, he could have his own jet if he wanted his own jet. But he’s sitting in coach because he likes to be with with people. Right. Right, right. Right. Yeah, yeah. Just a neat guy. Yeah, he is. Yeah, absolutely.
[00:44:44] Where do you see. So where is the industry going. What’s happening. We’ve got covid now. We’ve got we don’t we don’t have the agents in the office the way we had before. I don’t know where it’s going next year, in the year after. But so what’s going on in corporate with with covid. So we were chatting before we started before we turned on the the mikes a little bit. And you said there’s twenty people coming into the corporate office and there used to be four fifty.
[00:45:10] So yeah. So what covid did for us is it revealed a lot of things about the way we’ve always done things and that they can be done better and more efficiently.
[00:45:19] When covid first hit, we immediately looked at what our agents do every single day and we said, where do we have gaps for them to be able to do that without being face to face with people? Because we didn’t. We can’t have your job stop and your livelihood stop during this time because there are gaps for them to be able to do this relatively virtually. And granted, it can’t be completely virtually. But where are our gaps from a vertical perspective so we can keep them safe and not interrupt their business? And we immediately filled those gaps. We had all of our employees working from home. And what we found was, I mean, April and May of this year were essentially dead. I mean, April was dead. They started coming back a little bit. June, July, August, September have been huge months. But our but most of our employees still are still working from home because we want them to be safe. And what we’re finding is they’re equally, if not more effective, working from home. For example, our accounting department, we’re not missing payments with people because they’re actually doing their work from home because they’ve got access to everything they need to make sure agents are getting paid timely and quickly. So, you know, there have been hiccups along the way. So what does that mean for us going forward? We’ve had these conversations since the beginning. You know, we want to be ahead. We don’t want to be just keeping up. So when this first started is we need to make sure everybody can still do their business, do it efficiently and do it safely. But what is this going to mean for us as we move forward? And one of the things that we think is going to happen is they’re going to be a lot more people teleworking, not just that long and foster, but across the industry. I was listening to a you know, I was listening to Lawrence Yun, who’s the chief economist for NAR, and he said prior to covid, five percent of the people the United States work 100 percent of the time from home. And he says after covid, that number is going to spike to somewhere between 25 and 35 percent. So what’s that going to mean for commercial space? We certainly don’t need as much space as we used to have at corporate. But I will tell you that there’s my feeling when you look at offices that it’s a completely different thing the moment that we can get safely back together.
[00:47:17] Hmm. We need to be get together because iron sharpens iron. Yes. And so when agents are in the in and they’re able to ask each other questions and talk about what’s working and what’s not working for them and be face to face, if you go into this business, you’re a relational person, right? You turn around and a social person. So I’m not sure how much that’s going to change as it relates to in the field. I will tell you corporally, what we’re finding is that our employees can be just as effective. A lot of them can be just as effective from home. So, you know, we that there is a group of about eight to 10 of us who have been in every day since covid started. We stay, we wear our mask. We stay. So. Really distant, but you got to keep the ship moving in the right direction during that time period and now, you know, so as we move forward, we’re finding a bunch of efficiencies. But I don’t think, you know, you’re seeing all of these companies talking about a completely virtual real estate world. I don’t believe that that’s the way this is going to go, because people can’t see a house online and it be the same thing as sitting in the living room. Right. You can’t smell the living room from a picture. You can’t tell. You can’t visualize yourself living there from a video online because and you can’t look at the you know, whatever’s going on in the yard from there either. So it’s never you know, I don’t I don’t see robots replacing agents because, you know, when you start talking about being a trusted adviser or a market expert and an expert negotiator, I don’t believe that’s ever going to happen. So I think agents who are really good at this job business are not have nothing to worry about from a job security perspective. I agree completely. I think the future for the consumer, though, is who can give them the most efficient and enjoyable experience and what is otherwise a normally stressful transaction. Right. So one of the things that people much smarter than I did with Long and Foster years back is diversifying the other lines of business that are homeownership transactionally related to make the mortgage title insurance, moving services to make the whole process more efficient. Because we know we know from studies that 84 percent of consumers like the idea of a one stop shop, all inclusive experience because it’s about efficiencies. I mean, that plays out with, you know, how impatient we’re becoming with everything. Yes. When AOL first started and you’re doing dial up, it was fine to take a few minutes for a website to show up. Right. And if you’re on your phone in the middle of nowhere and you can’t get to your website in a second or two right now, you’re frustrated, right? So that translates into people’s patience as it relates to other industries as well. So I think the real estate industry is about I think we’re the true disruptor. Right. Is that all inclusive, efficient, professional experience at the end of the day with the best results?
[00:50:02] Mm hmm. Yeah, I agree. Yeah, absolutely. So do you what are your biggest concerns with covid? Are you what’s your biggest worry?
[00:50:14] You know, obviously you worry about people who get sick. You worry about the economy being shut down and the long term effect on that. I mean, I give you I worry about a lot of stuff. To tell the truth. I probably shouldn’t with my spiritual beliefs. I know that’s not what I’m supposed to be doing. Right. You worry about all of the stimulus of the federal government is thrown into into play through the Cares Act and, you know, trillions and trillions of dollars that you worry about inflation, inflation. But if you look at our industry, our industry has thrived through covid. Yeah. And I don’t think normally I would tell you the most important metric when looking at how good a real estate market is going to be is going to be consumer confidence. But this year, the most important metric is 30 year fixed rates. Right. You know, nine times this year, we hit all time lows and 30 year fixed rates under three percent, which is ridiculous. Money is so cheap. So people are buying anyway, even though consumer confidence is down something like 30 points from February. You know, the Dow’s volatile. You know, we’ve got 13 million, 12 million people out of work right now. Right. I would have thought if you told me the beginning of this year we’re going to have 12 million people out of work and consumer confidence at seventy four. Yeah. That we would be in the middle of a depression. Right. Right now. Right. But instead, you know, so far through September, we’re thirty five percent up in reported cases and 4.5 percent up and in close cases. Yeah. That is not what those two things make no sense. Yeah.
[00:51:39] They don’t jive. Yeah. Yeah. It’s amazing.
[00:51:42] And, and I, and I think that, you know, the reality is, you know, people have to move their offices into their home. They’re moving their classrooms into their home, they’re moving their gyms into their home. And even folks that have a larger home, it’s not large enough to to hold all that, you know, and if 25 percent of the folks are going to be working 100 percent from home going forward, that’s a lot of people that need to reconfigure their lives. And that could take years.
[00:52:11] I don’t think there’s any data. But the other thing that you’re seeing in most major MSA is a flight away from density. So good covid is with covid.
[00:52:19] People don’t want to be close to other people they don’t know. Right. So vertical living, so condo projects, having to touch a button to go up to your floor feels not as good being in the same elevator with somebody who feels not as good. So you’ve seen that play out in the Great Falls in the Potomac markets this year as people want more space and they want to get away from folks. And, you know, these are pretty challenging markets and most most times because big, big houses, big yards, lots of upkeep. But with covid, people are like, well, I’m if I’m going to be working from home, I want to be close to everybody all the time. So I’m going to need more space. And you’re going to see I mean, we’re not. See, in D.C., but if you look at the vast majority of major emcees, you’re seeing a flight from density. So the suburbs and the exurbs, which you talk about 25 to 30 percent of people working for home. Yeah. Will be attract more attractive places for people to live when they used to work in the city and they still work in the city, essentially.
[00:53:12] And it works because a high speed Internet and connectivity. Totally. Yeah. All right. So what are you most optimistic about? What do you family work, sports life. What do you what are you most optimistic about for the next few years for Boomer Foster?
[00:53:27] For me personally, personally, professionally. I’ve got hope in my life. Yeah.
[00:53:32] You know, I and there’s there’s been times in my life where I just didn’t feel like I had a lot of hope. I’ve got two kids who are healthy and who are smart and who work hard and who challenge me every single day. I’ve got a job that I think people appreciate the job that I do, which I don’t think everybody can say that. I mean, you know, I a lot of people can, but I mean, I go in somewhere every work, and I feel like people respect the job that I’m doing. So, you know, I’m just enjoying living. I’m I’m glad when I wake up in the morning and I take a deep breath and everything’s still working, you know, obviously my my body doesn’t feel like it used to football, added a bunch of years to my life. So there’s a bunch of aches and pains. But I don’t I mean, I’m just I’m excited about the future and where we are in this country right now scares me a little bit. But I believe in this country and I believe in the people of this country and I believe over time we’re going to figure this thing out.
[00:54:29] Mm hmm. Mm hmm. As a group, absolutely. I agree with you wholeheartedly. Well, Boomer, fantastic conversation.
[00:54:37] I enjoyed every second. I did, too. You far exceeded my expectations, so that was a lot of fun. So, Boomer, thank you for coming in.
[00:54:45] We’ve been chatting with Boomer Foster, President Long and Foster General Brokerage, and we hope to do this again one day in the future.
[00:54:54] It’s an honor, John. And, you know, I think the world of you. So anytime you need me, you just call. You got it. Thanks, man. Thanks.
[00:55:05] Hey, I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode to go with John Show. Please subscribe on the podcast platform of your choice and keep up with our latest episodes and what’s going on with the show at Go with John Dotcom. That’s go with John Dotcom