To me being a true leader is recognizing your failures from those who are better than you and embracing the change that you need to make in order to grow into becoming a better leader. That’s the thing with being a true leader you never stop learning and growing no matter how old you are or how successful you have become. There is always room for improvement. So, surround yourself with leaders you respect and not only listen but make the changes you need for yourself so you can contribute back to those following you.

For my series on strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jennifer Berman. Jennifer Berman is a Los Angeles local Luxury Real Estate Expert and frequently speaks in front of groups of over 5,000 at a time about the industry and team building. On a personal level, Jennifer is a three-time cancer survivor and a major advocate for female leadership. At every one of her speaking engagements, Jennifer fills the room with her customized presentations and high-impact message. She is a true role model, friend, and living proof that your future is always worth fighting for.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I was home from college in my senior year and my sister and her husband were building a huge custom home and I sat with the developer, Steve. He was a bigger than life personality and funny as heck. He would just walk into my sister’s home after he built it to show other potential clients. My sister would be chilling on the couch and Steve would just walk in with people scaring my sister to death. I thought it was great. My sister, not so much. I laughed and thought “Oh I could do this!”. Fearless needs to be one of many attributes a real estate agent must possess.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

I was the manager for a top agent that was sued along with 15+ plaintiffs on a home purchase. The buyer sued everyone under the sun. I think the mailman was even sued just walking to the house. Just kidding, but everyone else thrown into his lawsuit. I had to pick up my agent weekly and drive downtown to fight this battle. It was about 10 weeks in trial. I thought the agent was going to have a heart attack each day. It was an eye opener in how our industry has to be so careful on using specific words on the MLS. One word can destroy your entire career if you are found negligent. This agent was the most honest and knowledgeable agent I have had the honor to work with, so this certainly was not their case. Just a great reminder that our industry is litigious and this must not be taken for granted. We are considered a profession just as lawyers and accountants are. Meaning, we have a responsibility to keep up with our education in our practice. As real estate agents we must constantly be educating ourselves and for good reason. You would rather go through three root canals before having to go to court.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I thought the guy the Malibu divorcee was home shopping with was her son. He was not. It was her boyfriend. Reminds me of the advice I received years ago from a man, “Don’t ever ask a woman if she’s pregnant”. In my line of work, Don’t ever ask a woman with a much younger man she’s with if that’s her son. Oye.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Chris Pollinger, my amazing business partner that I am so blessed to know and be in business with, and I have actually done transactions and ran brokerages at a high level. We have the street cred behind us in the luxury space that most have never had the opportunity to experience. We both have lived all over the world, and bring that dynamic into our business. I was the only Ambassador for the #1 real estate portal in China so I have been at the beginning stages in real estate when the Chinese were wanting to purchase in the USA along with 88 other countries. I have had a lot of experience with Asia in particular in the real estate industry so our global reach is extensive.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I am in the midst of creating a cancer fund for the real estate industry. I wanted to name it after my BFF and mentor who lost his battle with cancer on Christmas Day 2019. His name was Dean Poole and the company he worked for, Concierge Auctions, stood by his side during his years of this battle. I did not have that. I had gone to work with former agents of mine and during the worst time of my life was dropped. For the first time in my life I was not an employee, but an independent contractor. I needed medical insurance and support of a team. Unfortunately, not only did I not receive that but had medical discrimination because I was not in a condition to work 24/7 as I always had before. I never want anyone to go through the financial destruction I had to over these last 4 years. I have done everything alone without any help along the way. This has been an inhumane battle no one should ever have to endure alone as I have had to do. My dream is this cancer fund will be a grant to help real estate agents in our industry to know they are not alone and we will work as a community to help those when they need it the most. This disease is ugly, and no one knows how each person’s battle will turn out. So, to not worry if you will have a roof over your head after an 8 hour double mastectomy should be the least of anyone’s worries at a time like that. While I am alive, my mission is to get this fund up and running and use my experiences to save thousands of others that will face the same thing I did in the future. They say God never gives us more than we can handle. I believe God placed these horrific situations on me because I could handle it and have the platform and life in me to help others in the future. My friends have been gracious enough to want to call this the Jennifer Berman Fund. So, it’s my mission to get out into our community and talk about this since we all know someone who has been touched by cancer. The need is there and the lack of assistance from the medical field is a shame. I want to change that and invite medical practitioners to educate our industry on resources and education available to them no matter which type of cancer they have.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive? Do a checkup from the neck up first. Are you mentally prepared to be a leader? Can you build a culture that will enable your teammates to soar and want to be loyal to your mission?

Building a team means you need to have compassion for others, a passion for further educating not only others but yourself, a commitment to helping other people win, understanding and appreciating those who are financially struggling to get into this industry and wanting to help them succeed. As females, we generally can be caregivers and nurturers and not know how to structure this into dollars to build your own business. Men have us beat on that generally speaking. We all need guidance on how to build a culture and be profitable at the same time. It can easily be done, but the lines of communication within the organization must positive and forward thinking.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

Be structured with weekly meetings so everyone is on the same page and feel they can be heard. Change occurs if everyone is communicating and on the same page. Too often so much time goes by and resentment sets in for whatever situation is not being addressed. Never underestimate the power of your environment, so having a pulse on the good and bad within your business is critical. Have an open mind, don’t shut down when you hear the hard criticism and address each situation with love and gratitude. Just be nice to people. It really isn’t that hard, but unfortunately if you work for narcissist they will not get this. So, are you in the right environment or do you even know what that looks like? Are you the narcissist? Ponder these things before building a large team.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Dean Poole. My mentor and one of my best friends for over 20 years. He is the reason for my move to LA 20 years ago. He taught me how to relax and not take myself so seriously. Why didn’t I listen to him more in my 30’s? Dean taught me how to be a speaker and care what the audience feels and not what I think. He was my rock in my professional career. We had been battling cancer for many years together. He lost his fight this past Christmas Day. Seeing his wife and the amazing kids he raised taught me a lesson to know that family is everything. He and his wife were a true team. They are the people I aspire to be like in kindness and gratitude in this life. I continue to learn from his legacy he left behind which are his incredible adult kids, Ruby and Kevin, and his wife of 30 years, Gwen. They are what we should all aspire to be on this planet. Sweet, loving, caring, and highly skilled souls always giving back to the world in a positive light.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I have brought many people into this real estate industry. When I have seen talent I go get them. I am blessed that many people contact me and thank me for giving them the life they have now because I brought them into it. Cancer took away my ability to have children so God gave me this industry to work with so many amazing human beings that they let me call them “my kids”. It doesn’t matter if they are 20 years old or 70 years old they are all my kids and I love them as if they actually were my own.

What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

Patience, Understanding, Compassion, Gratitude and support. Each word has its own special meaning to me, but the last word Support is one I never thought I would need until I had physical challenges with illness. I have two other main mentors in my life now. One is a man I call the ‘ole dawg, Hank Scheinberg. Hank is now in his 80’s and is a legend in our industry. I never need to reach out to him as he does it on his own. He is compassionate but also yells at me when I get caught in my own head. His yelling comes from love and him only wanting what is best for me. Recognize those who honestly have your back and want to support you even when you are being your own worst enemy.

To me being a true leader is recognizing your failures from those who are better than you and embracing the change that you need to make in order to grow into becoming a better leader. That’s the thing with being a true leader you never stop learning and growing no matter how old you are or how successful you have become. There is always room for improvement. So, surround yourself with leaders you respect and not only listen but make the changes you need for yourself so you can contribute back to those following you.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

My passion is to provide a movement of HOPE. Never give up Hope. My dad was a lieutenant colonel in the air force and he used to ask me if I knew the one thing POW’s could not lose? He said Hope. Once a human loses all hope, then you lose your will to live. With my cancer fund initiative in the real estate industry I am trying to provide others with Hope. In my case, I am divorced and both parents are deceased. My sister, brothers, nieces and nephews all live in other states and they are all living their lives. Hence, I am alone. However, I found amazing women in my industry that once I told my story in a private speaking event came to my aid. I now have wonderful soul sisters that fill my soul tank daily. I am no longer alone because of these ladies that have provided me hope. It is my duty to pass that along to other women in the real estate industry.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My daddy was a huge baseball fan so pretty much anything Vince Lombardi has said, but one of my favorite quotes is “Individual commitment to a group effort- that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work” Vince Lombardi I could not be who I am today had I not had a team of men and women behind me teaching me along the way.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

My absolute favorite TV show is Undercover Boss on CNBC. I cry every time I watch this. My dream would be to meet the person who created this show and somehow get to work with them behind the scene on this show. I try and support each company that goes on this show because they deserve it. It teaches us as leaders that we all fail but it’s how we resolve the failures once they are exposed. If these CEO’s looked into their employees eyes and did nothing, then shame on them. Delete them from life. However, Undercover Boss shows the compassion and true leadership it takes to make a change. I would do anything to work on a project like this for however long God allows me to stay on this planet. I want to inspire leaders to make the necessary changes to make this a better world.