Where it all began

 

The Interview...  Sean Thomas 
Embracing his Past Fuels his Future
An Interview with Tomi Kuczynski 
 

Let’s start with something simple. When in your life did you become interested in real estate?  Actually I think I would point to my childhood. Growing up, my parents liked to move a lot. I mean a lot! They were very impulsive. My sister and I would get excited with each move, looking at new homes and new sceneries; each time was an adventure.

By the time I was twelve, I was on my ten-speed riding thirty, forty, even fifty blocks to look at model homes. You know, I think the agents either had to think I was cute, or nuts, but either way, they engaged me and allowed me tour the homes.

Looking at homes was your childhood hobby? Really? What about sports, clubs and school activities? I was never that sports minded. I was the honor roll kid which minimized the friend pool. I tried Cub Scouts. I think it lasted two weeks! The closest to a sport I enjoyed was roller skating. Do they even still do that? My dad pushed me into fishing, and to this day I detest fishing!

Honesty I really had a strong interest in architecture. I think it started with my building blocks! In my pre-teen and teen years I would spend a lot of my time drafting home plans, drawing the exterior perspectives, and even planning multi-family communities. I had the homes planned out right down to where the electrical outlets and switches would go. Once I had the basic plans completed, I would go through the Sears catalogue and pick out all the interior fixtures, flooring and cabinetry.

The Sears Catalogue? You're dating yourself a little there. Oops! Let's say Home Depot.

Sure. Now career wise, what was the starting point in real estate? My first exposure in the real estate field was as a Leasing Agent. From leasing I worked my way into management. After a couple years of property management of three to four-hundred unit communities, I burned out. Try to imagine being Assistant Manager of a  community that large during Dallas’ yearly heat waves, and having like twenty percent or more of the air conditioners freeze up or die. As fast as five (air conditioners) would get repaired, another five would die. It was awful.

What followed? Honestly some bouncing around. Hospitality management positions for a couple years, which is what sparked my interest in advertising. I was never satisfied with the ten minute layout the newspapers would do for hundreds of dollars’ worth of advertising space. So I armed myself with a Mac 6115 equipped with Photoshop 5.5 & Illustrator 5.0, and began producing the ads myself. I found I really had a sense for design. I enrolled in Mac Academy and then courses in advertising and marketing. Before long I found myself as Art Director for a local 'rag,’ leading to Editor for a regional magazine, and lastly, I self-directed into Entrepreneur and Principal of Aequus Marketing & Design Inc.

Aequus was a strong player for Fort Lauderdale restaurants, hospitality and entertainment venues back in the late 90’s, wasn’t it? Yes. Our client roster included restaurants, nightclubs, guesthouses and hotels, some retail, and, oh yeah, medical too. Ironically, (laughing) one of our national accounts was Hair Club for Men® (making reference to his shaven head). I remember our first meeting with Sy Sperling in his Boca condo. We were so nervous, but we sold him. Hair Club was really a great notch in our belt.

You say we?  As the agency grew I encountered a need for web marketing. While I had a strong understanding of print media, marketing and public relations, I needed to address ‘new marketing.' I partnered with a colleague who was an incredible web designer. Honestly, without him I don’t know I would have ever learned web design. Of course our client roster grew, and we reached out to other markets. Eventually we did part though due to different visions for growth.

So you’ve lived in Dallas and Fort Lauderdale. Which are you from? Funny but the answer is neither. I am Midwest guy from Chicago. As I mentioned, my parents were pretty adventurous, and I think I have some of that in my blood. You’ll be surprised, but Long Beach is where I actually began my career in real estate.

Long Beach, as in Long Beach, California? That’s the one. I moved to Long Beach after selling my home in Dallas. It was short lived. In fact, let’s back up a little. While my home was on the market in Dallas, I became friends with my REALTOR®. Learning his daily activities and process; how he was operating his own business; the challenge of the negotiations in closing my deal; it was all intriguing to me.

After reflecting on my career history, I knew it would be perfect for me. I had a love for advertising. I grew up viewing homes, heck, I never stopped that hobby. I also really enjoyed the business end as the entrepreneur of Aequus. Real estate enveloped all these responsibilities into a single career.

So the house sold and I loaded up the truck and move to Beverly, Hills that is (singing, out of tune).

I thought you said Long Beach? I did, but it’s funny! Or not. Yes it was Long Beach. Long story short, I began college courses in California for real estate while I continued to freelance in advertising, with one of my accounts being Phil Hobson, the REALTOR® who sold my home. Well one day the phone rang and on the other end was Phil offering me a position as Advertising Director for his company. A month later he relocated me back to Dallas and shortly thereafter, I was a REALTOR® and Art Director working alongside of Phil.

There’s something in your voice when you talk about Phil. Yes Phil was my mentor, and a terrific one at that. He took me under his wing and taught me the ins-and-outs of real estate; more than any college courses ever did. He was, and he still is, one of the top agents in Dallas.

Soon I was working with buyers, sellers and developers. I was also working closely with an investor buying homes to flip and sell, after a seventy to one-hundred-thousand dollar renovation was completed. She is another person I would like to give a shout out to: Laura Fetrow of Urban Renovations (llc). We worked well together evaluating the potential of each wreck-of-a-home to see if we could come up with a modern layout, while still making the numbers work for a decent profit margin.

Laura also gave me my first Luxury Listing. I still laugh at that one.

The Luxury Market, very nice. Let me tell you, it was a challenge. Laura entrusted me with the listings for all of the homes we flipped. But there was one she wouldn’t. Being in the exclusive neighborhood of Highland Park, she didn’t feel confident I was ready to handle a luxury listing in such a high-end neighborhood.


"One evening Dad headed to the Cubs game. My sister and I were summoned to the living room by my mother. Moments later the living room furniture went over the third-floor balcony."

 Highland Park is where President George Bush now lives, isn’t it? Yes sir. Of course his home is in a VERY exclusive part of the neighborhood! Laura decided to list with one of the well-known, top agents in the neighborhood. Unfortunately a six month listing resulted in nothing. Again I asked for the listing but it was still a no-go. She enlisted a second prominent agent who also failed. Now a year later Laura was pretty much over it. She finally offered the listing to me. I agreed, but only if I could stage the main rooms and master suite. Within thirty days we were under contract. Laura never again doubted my ability in selling any of her homes.

You mentioned staging. You do home staging as well? Of course, in real estate home staging is a necessity, which is why I felt it necessary to become an expert in this area. The better a home shows, the easier it sells, and the larger sales price is achieved for the Seller.

Additional college courses? Yes I have several college classes in my history, along with a portfolio of motivational and real estate centered classes and studies. But, I truly credit my success to a lifelong interest in architecture and decor/remodeling. Also as I mentioned of my adolescence, we moved around a lot. Every new place needed remodeling, at least in same way, according to my mother. I think I was working with a drill and Skill saw™ before I was ten.

Then there were the weekends. Every Saturday, and I do mean every single Saturday, it was an eight hour chore of cleaning, arranging and rearranging everything, or so it seemed. It was never wise to wake up in the middle of a Saturday night, as you might not remember where the furniture had been moved to.

In our house my mother was the pilot, and everyone else, a passenger. I remember my mom wanting a new living room set, but dad wasn’t keen on the idea. He felt it could wait. Hah! One evening Dad headed to the Cubs game. My sister and I were summoned to the living room by my mother. Moments later the living room furniture went over the third floor balcony… My mother got her new living room set.

That’s too funny! Are there any of your own idiosyncrasies we should know about?  Hmmm. Well I am a perfectionist. I can become very focused on a project. I will spend hours and hours, and then more hours, until I get it just right. Some might say I get to the point of being obsessive; I prefer to call it pride. It’s been a valuable asset in my life, and a handicap at times. Whenever I would go on job interviews and they would ask, “What are your strengths and what are your weaknesses?” I would answer with a single word, perfectionism.

Might ‘we’ be a little high strung? I prefer the term 'determined!' I don’t believe in failure. What others may consider a failure I consider an experience. If you work through experiences, changing the formula slightly with each experience, you’ll eventually solve the equation.

Nice. I like that kind of thought. Very positive. I did some studying of metaphysics; the Law of Attraction. I don’t believe it to be as simplistic as 'The Secret' (Rhonda Byrne),  but that’s a starting point. For anything in life it’s about believing it can be true. I don’t believe you can sit in a room day after day, and if you are focused on the desire, money will begin fall from the ceiling. I believe for something to become reality, one has to not only want it, but move towards it. It's desire coupled with Newton’s Law of action equaling reaction. I live by the belief that you not only have to work hard, you have to do the very best you possibly are capable of, and then learn to do even better to be successful.

On a different note, I did have the opportunity to read your bio. You mentioned your return to South Florida, but didn't offer any reasoning. It sounds like everything was going well in Dallas.  It was. Phil and I created two separate entities, yet still worked closely together. The market was strong. Listings were selling; buyers were buying. Combined sales were excellent, (pause) but I knew returning to Florida was inevitable with my parents getting up there in age. The distance between Florida and Texas was just too great. So I decided it was time for one last long-distance move.

PadQue came to life soon after getting settled back in Fort Lauderdale. Of course, the first year of PadQue's infancy, as with any start-up, was tough.

So Where is PadQue is heading now?  Efforts have been and always will be focused on constant, unparalleled client service for both sellers and buyers. It is paramount to not only meet client expectations, but to exceed them. To continue implementing innovative practices and marketing disciplines differentiating PadQue and its service offerings is what will grow the brand, and in-turn, organically grow the business. An old Avis® slogan seems to always linger in the back of my mind, “We’re number two. We try harder.”

 Would you like to be number one? To our clients, we already are. Now if you’re talking in terms of awards and accolades, that's not the goal at all. The number one agent, group, brokerage - they all constantly seem to rotate. That’s not what’s important. Our clients define our success.

Let’s wrap it up with this final question. Now having an understanding of your 'determination', what do you do to relax? Honestly? Lay on the floor wearing head phones, blaring music so loud I can’t think. Sounds strange, but it works for me.

 
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