Jon "Jack" Douglas, founder of one of the most successful companies in the real estate industry and my former boss, passed away on July 27, 2010. The lessons I learned from working with Jack Douglas are timeless and can serve as a guidepost to all real estate professionals.
Jack Douglas was much more than a real estate legend. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Stanford University, where he served as a starting quarterback and Stanford’s first All American in tennis. He also represented the U.S. on the Davis Cup tennis team and served in the U.S. Marines.
His vision was to create a company where the agents always "did the right thing" and were the best trained, the most professional and most productive agents in the industry.
The Jon Douglas Co.’s classic mansion logo underscored its upscale image with the tag line, "The Sign of Respect." Jack’s approach to real estate is just as relevant today as it was when he and Dan Emmett started the company in 1971.
1. We offer one level of service: the best
Jack wanted agents who were dedicated, full-time professionals who could provide the comprehensive service he felt every client deserved. In fact, a key point Jack made repeatedly was, "I don’t care if you are representing a $50,000 condo or a $50 million mansion — every one of our clients deserves to receive the best possible service from every single person in our company."
The Jon Douglas Co. (JDCO) pioneered the first "concierge" service in 1996, allowing its customers to handle everything they needed related to their move with a single phone call. Listening to your customers and responding to their needs is the secret to having customers for life.
2. Never give up
This was one of Jack’s favorite sayings. He was tenacious when it came to negotiations, and encouraged us to keep working on the offer process until we persuaded the parties to agree. For example, JDCO agents were expected to present offers in person. Moreover, they were regularly encouraged to present sellers’ counteroffers to buyers as well.
3. Peak performance is both mental and physical
One of Jack’s great tennis stories was how he was losing to the world’s leading clay court player on his home court in Rome.
Jack was down two sets to zero, and was two points from losing the match. Jack made up his mind that he was going to win the match. It was one of the great come-from-behind wins in tennis history. Jack always reminded us that having the right mindset, coupled with great physical preparation, was the secret to playing at the top of your real estate game.
4. Education matters
JDCO had a huge commitment to ongoing real estate education. Whether it was bringing in the professors from the Pepperdine Law School to help build agents’ mediation and negotiation skills or training on such 1990s innovations as e-mail or websites, Jack’s vision of excellence insured that his agents were the best trained in the business.
5. Play to your strengths
Everyone has weaknesses. Jack believed that it was important for each of us to develop our strengths. Rather than focusing on your flaws, work at growing the best aspects of who you are.
6. Listing market share is the name of the game
One thing was abundantly clear about the JDCO company culture: It was all about growing its market share, which meant controlling the listing inventory.
Jack’s successful implementation of his vision of professionalism, superb service and an ultra-high-end image meant that in 18 years he never had to sell the company on a listing appointment. "All I had to do was to sell myself," he said.
7. Reward initiative
In the mid-1980s, Jack was building two custom houses in a new, 93-lot Beverly Hills subdivision where I was one of the listing agents.
The rumor was that Jack was going to give the listings to the two top producers from the Bel Air office. I put together a detailed marketing plan that I submitted to Jack. He called me into his office, told me that he really liked what I had proposed, and added me as a co-lister with the team from Bel Air.
8. Six months ahead of the competition
When I became executive director of training for the company, I spent almost a year rewriting the training curriculum. I was terribly upset when one of our competitors launched a strikingly similar program a few months after its release.
Jack made an observation that has been a guiding principle in my business ever since: "Bernice, people will always try to imitate the best. All we have to do is to stay six months ahead of the competition and we will own the market."
Own the market we did. When the company was purchased by Coldwell Banker in 1997, we had the most productive company per agent in the country, we were selling more than $1 billion every month, and we had 50 to 70 percent of the market share in the most competitive markets in the country: Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Pacific Palisades and Santa Monica, Calif.
Because I had moved to Texas, I hadn’t seen Jack for a number of years. I had a trip planned to Los Angeles and decided to stay an extra day to visit him. I spent a wonderful morning with him on June 17, just a month before he passed away.
He could barely walk due to a problem the specialists were unable to diagnose. He was still swimming almost every day and planning a new condo project.
I have had the privilege of working with thousands of real estate professionals during my 30 years in the business. No one, however, has had more of an effect on who I am today as a real estate professional than Jack Douglas. Those of us who were part of the "Sign of Respect" knew we were part of something very special.
Thanks, Jack. You may no longer be with us, but what you taught us will continue to influence real estate professionals and their clients for many years to come.