Thursday, February 28, 2013

If I Were Building A Home Today...


By Jim “Gymbeaux” Brown, February 28, 2013

Disclaimer:  I have been a real estate broker since 1982, first licensed in 1980.  I am familiar with real estate and more specifically residential homes.  So with that said…..

If I were building a home today, I would look to both the present and the future.  One never knows nor can one be certain just what tomorrow will bring.

Safe Room:  I would definitely build what is referred to as a “safe room” somewhere towards the middle of the home.  If you are in a tornado prone area, that safe room should definitely be on the ground floor or below the ground floor level.  The safe room should be big enough to accommodate the entire family and be equipped to serve your needs for up to several hours.  This room is not necessarily intended to be a safe haven from criminal activity as depicted in the movies but rather as a safe haven from severe weather alerts.  Personally I would consider some form of sliding door as compared to one on hinges as opening and closing a door on hinges could be extremely difficult during period of high winds.   The room should be equipped with storeage areas for food, water, emergency radio with extra batteries.

Built-in Safe:  If you ever had to evacuate your home you know that there are very important papers that you need and should take with you.  But what do you do if you have to evacuate in just a few minutes or seconds as in the case of a fire.  Are you prepared to grab hold of a container with those papers already in it?  You should be.  Another alternative would be to install a safe in your new home where you can store valuable papers and personal items you do not want to lose or have stolen.  The safe should be water-tight and fire resistant for obvious reasons.  The cost of such a safe would be a very small price to pay given its potential long-term benefits.

Emergency Wiring:  As long as the home is going to be wired anyway, why not ask the electrician to create a separate wiring for essential appliances and lights throughout the home that you can wire directly to an external emergency generator.  Items such as a refrigerator, freezer, specific lights throughout the home and even a place to install a window air conditioner in one or more rooms.  If you live in hot and arid areas of the country you know just how valuable having a room to cool off in is to you and your family.  It is not necessary to install a permanently installed emergency generator but it certainly wouldn’t hurt. 

External Electrical Outlets:  In standard home construction, there are never enough exterior electrical outlets.  Plan ahead for yard maintenance and/or special external lighting you may anticipate including patio areas, roofs, etc.

Solar Attic Fans:  I have one and it takes no electrical current to operate.  The price difference is negligible.  This should not be an option.  Just do it.

Exterior Water Faucets:  Again, there are rarely enough or they are not located where you need them the most.  Plan ahead.  Account for fences where you may be near a faucet but not have direct access to it.  I know this because…..

Low Voltage Garden Lighting:  Again, work with your electrician and plan head.  This is both from a beautification project as well as from a safety issue.  It is difficult for burglars to linger around your home when there is sufficient lighting around the base of your home.

Installed Lawn Sprinklers:  Consider it rather than waiting until you have everything in place to decide that you want to have sprinklers installed for your lawn and garden areas.  Much easier to install upfront rather than later on.

Whole House Surge Protection:  Often overlooked.  Plan ahead.  Have a whole-house surge protection system installed on your electrical service to help prevent damage from electrical spikes in the system.  Inexpensive but worth its weight in gold.

Home Security System:  This too is worth its weight in gold.  Such a system should include alarms on all exterior doors, motion detectors within the home, alarms on all ground floor windows if not all windows.  You might also want to consider a Panic Button located in your master bedroom and other ideal locations throughout the home.  The button should activate an exterior light on the street side of the home to alert emergency responders that it is your home where there is an issue.  Guns within the home are fine but nothing can take the place of an extremely loud interior and exterior siren to alert the neighbors and first responders that there is an issue.  No burglar or home intruder is going to want to stay around with a siren blaring in his or her ear.  Monitoring the system is not absolutely necessary but why wouldn’t you have it monitored.  The cost if very reasonable.

Doors:  You never know when you or someone you care about will need a wheelchair or scooter to move about your home.  Again, the key words are “plan ahead.”  Give serious thought to installing nothing but 36” wide doors that can accommodate such mobilization devices. 

Bathroom Vanities:  If you have never used a wheelchair or know of anyone who has you are probably not aware how difficult it is for someone bound to a wheelchair to gain access to bathroom vanities because the section directly beneath the sink is usually blocked by drain pipes and water connection.  There are vanities that take this into consideration where the center section can actually be removed without creating an eye soar where someone in a wheelchair can put their chair directly up to the sink to use it.  Give this some thought.
Walk-in Showers/Tubs:  There are now numerous bath tub/shower installations that enable someone with difficulties to use these facilities and not be hampered by the old style showers and tubs.  You may want to consider outfitting at least one bathroom in your new home with such modern and convenient features.

Shower/Bath Grab Handles:  Much easier to install such handles during construction rather than after construction.  You don’t have to have a physical problem for these to be very valuable to you or anyone using your shower/tub.

Emergency Shut Off For Gas Service:  If you have natural gas to your new home, you may want to consider having a very obvious emergency gas shut off located in a convenient spot outside your home but not so convenient where vandals could wreck havoc on it.

BBQ Gas Line To Patio:  It costs money to install and bury gas lines after the fact so again, plan ahead to determine (1) if you will be using a gas fed BBQ and (2) where will the BBQ be located.  Then have your contractor install the gas line BEFORE any concrete work is completed over the same ground.

Light Switches:  There was a builder who placed light switches through the homes he built that were easily 12 to 16 inches lower than where you would expect them to be.  His logic was that when you enter a room, at what level are your hands.  He placed the switches about belt level.  His thinking?  That is where you are hands typically are PLUS that is a height that both children and people in wheelchairs could easily use the switch.  Food for thought.


Rising Sun/Setting Sun:  Before you place your home on your building lot, determine where the sun will predominately rise and set to determine the best location for your home.  Do you want the sun to awake you?  Do you want to watch the sun set in the evening from your patio?  Once determined you also need to consider the best window coverings to either take advantage of the sun rays or to protect your home and furnishings from the sun rays.

ROOF EXIT:  After I had written and posted this Nugget, I had need to go onto the roof to retrieve a toy that somehow suddenly appeared on the roof.  For what it’s worth, I hate putting a ladder up to my roof and climbing up the ladder and then straddling the latter to get onto the roof.  Going up always seemed much easier than going down; at least for me.  If I were building a home today, I would have a door of sorts included in the roof design where I can easily gain access to my roof through the attic.  It would be much safer.  In the area I am from, Southeast Louisiana, you never know when flooding may cause you to exit your home through your roof as was evidenced during Hurricane Katrina.  Just a suggestion.

Hopefully these items will provide you with food for thought BEFORE you get to the point when you find out it is too late to include such items without incurring a heavy cost to do so.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Memories of Hurricane Katrina

The following is a compilation of Nuggets For The Noggin written shortly after Hurricane Katrina.

What is Important Here?
Article by: Jim “Gymbeaux” Brown, August 29, 2005

Today as I write this Nugget, I am sitting in Birmingham, Alabama at my daughter’s home (who by the way is in England visiting her in-laws) and Hurricane Katrina is bearing down on my home in Slidell, Louisiana – a direct hit I believe.

For years I have watched as storms, earthquakes and other natural disasters have struck other parts of the country and could not help but wonder how I would feel, what I would think or how I would respond.  I guess that is why I like to watch some of the old World War II films as I always wondered how I would have reacted when placed in Harms’ Way.  I do not think anyone could know for certain.  I also cannot help but think that there will be a sequel to this Nugget when I finally get to return to whatever is left of my home and see it firsthand.

For today, these are my thoughts as I watch television and the coverage of the storm as it approaches Slidell.

I would like to pose a question to you:  “If you had only minutes or even a few short hours to make some decisions such as my wife and I had to make, AND you only had so much room in your car or truck, what would you take with you if you were forced to evacuate your home?”  Now before you answer, you really have to set the stage by remembering you have only a few minutes or at best a few hours to decide while at the same time you had to get your home ready the best you can to take on the onslaught it is about to experience.

Assuming that my wife and my Miniature Schnauzer Sophie were going with me, what else would I want to take?  What would you take?  The family photos are the most precious to my wife (not that they are not for me but they seem MORE precious to her), the family photos were loaded onto the truck.  Insurance papers!  Of course, without them how would you know who to call?  Other family papers that would be difficult or impossible to replace.  (If ever there was proof that you need to make copies of such papers and store them somewhere other than at your home, this is it!)  When it came down to it, just about anything worth saving were “papers”, either documents needed for AFTER the crisis or documents/photos that simply could not be replace.  Believe it or not, that included income tax papers and records.  Why?  Because I do not have the faith necessary to believe that our Federal Government would understand that I may have just lost everything in my home including THEIR documentation of my taxes.  How sad is that?  Dollar value?  Hardly any!  Emotional or sentimental value – priceless!

We did not take many clothes with us, there was simply not enough room and I guess we are still hoping that our home will be left untouched or at least we would be able to retrieve things like clothing that may be soaked but not necessarily ruined. 

Now you can laugh if you wish, but the last thing I put in my truck besides myself was my golf clubs.  Not the entire bag, just the clubs.  At first I was just going to leave them behind with everything else but then the more I thought about it, they are precious to me and for anyone who plays golf knows, clubs become very personal to you.  You finally got them just like you want them, the right heads, the right shafts, and the right clubs; how could you even begin to replace them?  New clubs are not the same; you want your old ones.  I was afraid to tell my wife that I was taking them with me so when I did, you can appreciate my surprise when she said, and “I thought they would be the first thing you want to take.”

So now it is the next day, the storm is only minutes from Slidell and I had a chance to think about what we put in our truck.  You think of your military records, uniform, awards and medals.  You think of all the books that I have accumulated in my library that number in the hundreds.  You think of the knick knacks around the home, some valuable, some just knick knacks.  The china you were given at your wedding along with the silverware.  Your furniture.  The pictures on your walls.  Your tools.

But you know what, all that can be replaced in time or at least most of it.  Even the books; I have read them, the knowledge is in your head, the books are but shadows of what you learned and Katrina cannot take that away from me.  There are things, however, that I really will miss.  I have a signed and numbered print by LeRoy Neiman that proudly hangs (hopefully) on my wall.  It was at this thought that my mind suddenly went negative.  You start to think of all the "what if’s” that could happen.  What if this…  What if that…  Then is really hit me.  What if my home survives the storm or is only partially damaged.  And then “what if” the looters take over?  It was then I got angry, not over my home being hit by a storm, that is “chance” but looters, that is not chance, that is opportunity for people with no principles or ethics.  I know they will be busy throughout Louisiana and Mississippi over the next several days and there is nothing that I can do about it. 

But even that can be put into perspective.  When I deal with a crisis of any kind, I always ask myself, one month from now, a year from now, five years from now or after I am gone from this Earth, will anyone really remember what happened on this day or as a result of some activity?  I doubt it.  Every day we have opportunities to make a difference in someone’s life (by the way, those opportunities did not make it in the truck either).  That is what is important.  The LeRoy Neiman is not important (cannot believe I just wrote that) and if the truth be known, neither are my golf clubs.  Diane and Sophie are important at least in our small world.  But what is really important is the difference I may have made in someone’s life – and even more important the chain reaction that difference may have caused in many more lives; people I do not even know.

It would be nice to know these things but even that is not important.  The important thing – I gave it my best even when my best may not have been good enough for someone – I gave it my best and in that knowledge I am okay.  I think it was A. L. Williams who said, “All you can give is your best and your best IS good enough!”

So maybe, just maybe, the most valuable thing I put in my truck, next to Diane and Sophie, was me so I can continue to give my best and hopefully provide something of value to others who in turn do the same for someone else.

I am not blinded to the fact that as stated earlier, once I see my home in whatever condition it is in, I may have different thoughts but somehow I do not think so.  But in my desire to be honest with everyone, I will let you know. 

I ask you again, think about this.  If you had to leave town right now – what would you put in YOUR truck?

What is Important Here – Part 2
Article by: Jim “Gymbeaux” Brown, September 2, 2005

Today is Friday, September 2, 2005 and it has been 5 days since Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast of the United States.  The initial shock has worn off.  The television images will be with me the rest of my life.  The original Nugget, ”What is Important Here” is just as valid today as it was before Katrina struck – but my world has changed dramatically to where it will never be the same ever again.

What has happened since Monday?  Let me review.

If I could have put all 70 of my crew (the real estate agents in my office) and their families into my car I would have.  As it stands now, I have heard from only 1/3 of them.  As for the other 2/3, who knows for sure?  I feel confident that they are all safe and sound but the cell phones are not working or the circuits are too busy to take my calls, either way, I have no idea if they are safe or not.  That is not a good feeling.

So I use the Internet, more specifically email, to try to reach out to my crew.  Then came the surprises.  Email after email came in from Keller Williams Realty Market Centers throughout the country all offering some form of assistance.  They offered food, money, water, clothes, and/or a place to stay.  Frankly the response was overwhelming.  Actually it was MORE than overwhelming; it brought tears to my eyes (not an easy thing to admit for a macho guy like me J).  Not only did they come, they continue to come. 

Then I received an email from Mo Anderson of our Corporate Headquarters who informed me that Keller Williams International has raised more than $800,000 in just over two days of trying.  This is money donated from my fellow Keller Williams Realty associates.  That speaks volumes about our company and its culture and beliefs.

I am asked what can we do to help?  How do I respond?  I don’t know where all my associates are let alone their condition, financially, emotional or physical well being.  I know what it means to want to help as in 9/11.  You have such an overwhelming helpless feeling at the same time being a little grateful that it was not me.  To answer their question; I simply don’t know at this time.  I would suggest sending money to Keller Cares because it serves the Keller Williams Associates who are experiencing difficulties beyond those normally experienced in life.  In that regard, I would say Katrina would qualify.

Then my mind wanders onto reality.  How will my crew sell real estate over the next 4 to 6 months and thus earn an income?  This feeling was magnified today when I returned to Slidell and saw my city first hand and what Katrina had done to it.  It was not a pretty picture!  There were trees down everywhere.  Telephone poles were sheared off half way up the pole and the top with transformers were lying on the roadways.  There was damage to almost every building in one way or another.  Then I came upon my home.  There it was intact with every tree lying on the ground with huge clumps of dirt and sod still on the roots but protruding upwards like a monument to Katrina.  Then in my back yard a massive tree, it had fallen only a foot from my home and a foot from two other homes.  It was as if God said it was time for this tree to die but it was not time for it to take out my home or my neighbors homes.  Instead, it looked like it had been gently placed on the ground between the three of us – imagine that!  The only real damage to my home was a missing attic vent/fan that left a 12 inch diameter hole in my roof and water stains on the ceiling of my master bedroom.  In addition, many roofing shingles were missing.  Maybe it signals a new roof.  Just two short weeks prior to Katrina I had called to get an estimate on my “old” roof; it was time.  Coincidence?  Maybe, maybe not!  (2013 update.  It was not until weeks or even months after Katrina that other damage in our home started to appear like cracked bricks on the siding and cracks in the sheetrock on several ceilings and walls.  I called a structural engineer who came to look at the home and said it was fine that all the damage was superficial and probably was created when the home was shaken by the severe winds.)

Then my wife and I went about Slidell to check on relatives homes.  That is when the tears started to flow.  Beautiful homes with furniture piled up in the front rooms having been tossed and floating about the home in water up to waste high.  Garage doors literally blown out as the incoming water and wind literally pushed debris against the doors from the inside pushing the doors outward towards the street.  There was debris everywhere you looked.  Damaged roofs, toppled trees, down power lines, abandoned cars.  Then I saw what I still cannot believe.  A local car dealer had cars sitting on top of cars and one SUV was literally balancing itself atop fence in a ditch in front of the dealership.  Another rare site was a houseboat, intact, sitting on the west bound lane of I-10.  When I checked out my niece’s home, I was shocked to see a huge shipping container sitting on the front yard of the home next door to hers.  Where did that come from?   Her home also had water and the shingles on the roof were almost totally gone.

One cannot help but ask, Why does this happen?  What have any of these people ever done to warrant such unbelievable destruction?  What are we going to do now?  Will we rebuild?  Will we relocate?  How are we going to survive?  How are we going to pay our bills which will not come because there is no one home and the Post Office is probably holding the mail anyway?  Even if I get a bill, the mailing address is in New Orleans and no one is going to receive it.  Then the Big Question!  Why was I spared this destruction?  I am no better than any of the people whose homes were devastated. 

As I write this second Nugget I have no answers to any of these questions.  I am simply grateful that it was not Diane and me sitting in the Superdome or treading water in New Orleans.  Is that selfish?  Maybe so, maybe not but it is what I am thinking.

Throughout this entire ordeal, I have a tremendous sense of pride.  First in the U. S. Coast Guard of which I was a member for twenty years.  You have to admit, they look great on television.  I have been out of the Guard since 1985 and I still get goose bumps when I see a Coast Guard Cutter or Helicopter go by.  Today I have a new sense of pride in the men and women of the organization I currently work for, Keller Williams Realty.  I am confident that in the future, I will experience those same goose bumps whenever I see a Keller Williams Realty yard sign or advertisement.  There is the same unique oneness with each other that I experienced as a member of the Coast Guard team.  For those who are reading this and have not served in the Coast Guard or work with Keller Williams Realty, you will have to take my word for this – it is truly special.

So I am now back in Birmingham, (the power is still out in Slidell), not knowing what the future holds nor does any of my crew.  Uncertainty abounds everywhere yet there is a feeling that all will be well if I just let it go wherever it wants to go.  That there is a higher power that already has a course for me and my crew to follow and that I ought to just let it happen.  I know I should look for signs; something that is there right in front of me but if I allow my mind to dwell on the disaster, I will fail to see it or worst, fail to act upon it.  There is no such thing as a coincidence!  Things happen for a reason.  Why was my home spared?  Who knows?  Why my neighbor’s home so severely damaged, again who knows?

I do expect that there will be another Nugget to come when time wears on and patience wears thin.  How will I feel a month from now?  Will I be angry or excited?  Will I look upon this as a learning experience or a personal tragedy?  Will I be a better or worst person because of it?  Who knows; maybe so, maybe not!  Only time will tell but I do believe in the universal law of attraction; you become what you think of most.  So if I am not very careful, I am destined to become a golf ball!

What is Important Here – Part 3
Article by: Jim “Gymbeaux” Brown, September 7,  2005

When something as all encompassing as Hurricane Katrina hits, one tends to lose track of time.  I had to stop and calculate not only what the date is but what day of the week it is.  Well it is Wednesday, September 7th, I am alive and well working from my battery driven laptop. 

Tuesday, I decided that while staying with my daughter and her husband and two children was a fine thing to do, I also felt I had to get back to Slidell to start repairing my home.  So at 3:30 AM, Tuesday I was on the road to Slidell.  While it was hot in Birmingham this morning was unusually cool.  I rolled down my windows and put “Watercolors” on my XM radio.  If you have traveled over a long distance and have access to satellite radio, you know it is really unique.  So I put on Watercolors, which is a smooth jazz station that I can literally listen to from one coast to the other without changing channels.  What does all this have to do with Hurricane Katrina – actually a great deal.

There I was, on I-59 south out of Birmingham, turn the volume a bit louder, and discovered really cool air on my face and in my hair.  In fact it was so cool, I had to put the heater on in the truck. Then I realized, I was keeping time with the music with my head, my hands, my feet and my mind was actually clear of Hurricane Katrina.  Hardly a thought passed for the better part of the 5 hours it took to reach Slidell.  So to people like Joe Sample, Herb Alpert, The Rippingtons, Rick Braun, Chris Botti and others, I sincerely thank you for mentally taking me to a place other than Hurricane Katrina.

There is a lesson here; your mind can not focus on two things at the same time.  Therefore, when you are really troubled, think about sitting back in your best chair, put on some music that allows you to get involved with the music and let go!  With all the trouble in New Orleans, there is nothing that I personally could do about it anyway, especially doing 70 (ok I was doing 77) on I-59 south.  So why not let go and give your mind a rest.  Not only did it rest, it was rejuvenated.  After 5 hours of smooth jazz, I was ready to kick butt and take no names let alone prisoners.

Now it is one week and two days after the devastation.  I still have not heard from 30 of my 70 agents.  I am still confident that they are OK while the same I am sure cannot be said for their homes.    Then I thought about something that occurred as recently as two weeks ago where an associate was really upset over something that happened.  I would dare say the agent has not given that incident one thought since Katrina – kind of puts things into perspective doesn’t it?  But why do we have to endure something as horrible as Katrina to realize that life’s “little” problems don’t amount to a hill of beans so why do we let them amount to a little hill of beans?  You don’t have to answer, it was just a question.

It is hot in my home. I spent the last two days cutting up fallen trees and clearing my lot and patching the hole in my roof.  At first I worked for about 2 hours and then took a 10 minute break.  Then for about an hour with a 20 minute break and you can guess where this is going.  I am not as young as my mind thought I was.  It was really hard work in a very hot sun.  You learn to appreciate not having to work that hard; that I can assure you.  You learn to appreciate the little things at times like this. For example, my home is very hot, every window is open, the sun is setting just over the top of my laptop and, yep, it was what I thought it was, a very gentle breeze cooling me ever so slightly.  When was the last time you gave thanks for a gentle breeze?  You don’t have to answer. 

So I sit here at my laptop writing about my experiences with Katrina.  I have a chocolate SnackPak pudding and of course my XM radio is on and Watercolors is playing more smooth jazz and believe it or not all is right with the world in spite of Katrina.  Sure there are people in harms’ way but there are always people in harms’ way, some beyond their control and some within their own control.  By the way, Gregg Karukas is currently on Watercolors playing a song entitled “Healing Song”, is that a coincidence or what?

I received several phone calls today and that in itself was a small miracle.  One was from Lee Shelton whom most of you probably do not know but should and the other from Joe Tye whom most of you probably do not know but should.  Lee is an extraordinary man who has had a very creative life and now speaks to large groups about such things as “Creating Teamwork” something that everyone should hear.  He called to see how his student was doing.  Then Joe Tye called also to see how his pupil was doing.  Joe’s book “Never Fear, Never Quit” seems somehow very appropriate at the moment.  It would be easy to think of giving up and doing something else or going somewhere else.  Leave it to Joe to put things into perspective. 

I mentioned to Joe that it was easy to feel sorry for yourself until you realize how miserable some people are in downtown New Orleans.  Joe reminded me that pain is pain and it is OK to not only feel your own pain but to let go and give in to how you feel.  Holding back your pain accomplishes nothing.  Once you can acknowledge how you feel, it becomes easier to really let it go and move on.  This is NOT the end of the world.  In fact, it is a new beginning.  We had BK and now we start AK (before Katrina and after Katrina). 

That noise?  Oh, that is another thing to be thankful for.  A gas generator; J   I hooked one up to a fan and now I am also thankful for a smallish hurricane that is blowing across my back.  It was off when I started this Nugget but as the sweat started to run down my arms and onto my keyboard; I thought it was time to light it off.  It was not totally selfish, my battery on my laptop was about to expire.

So what’s the lesson some 9 days after Katrina (AK)?  GIVE THANKS!

What or who should I give thanks to or for?

  • I am alive – God!
  • My home is in tack
  • I have my laptop computer and it is working
  • A gentle breeze through the screen window
  • Chocolate pudding
  • Gatorade lemonade
  • Gas generator
  • A fan that works
  • Lee Shelton
  • Joe Tye
  • Too many people to name who have called or emailed wishing me well
  • My office building is in tack
  • I still have my golf clubs

No one knows for certain what the future holds; it could be good, bad or indifferent.  It really doesn’t matter does it?   What’s important part 3? 

  • My wife Diane
  • My Miniature Schnauzer Sophie
  • The people who care about me and my well being
  • Geeze, I almost left off my golf clubs (had I not said that no one would have believed a word I said here)

But the most important lesson I have learned 9 days into Katrina is to stop and give thanks to what is important and put everything else into its proper perspective because when it comes down to it, nothing else really matters.

I have over my desk three very important papers:

  1. 7 Habits of Highly Successful People –Stephen Covey
  2. The Self-Empowerment Pledge – Joe Tye
  3. The Traveler’s Gift – Andy Andrews

These documents are very important to me and I review them on a daily basis to keep me focused on what is important.  As good as all three of these documents are, they left off one character trait I have learned as a result of Katrina and that is “to be grateful” and to “give thanks” even for the smallest of gifts like the cooling breeze over the top of my laptop when everything else seems to be falling apart around you.

P.S.  If anyone would like a copy of the three documents identified above, send me an email to and simply put the word “documents” in the subject line.  When everything gets back to normal, I will send them out.  No don’t do that!  I’ll just them out to everyone any way.

Oh yea, I am also very grateful to the over 400 recipients of Nuggets for the Noggin and the many comments I have received about them.  Thank you from the bottom of my heard (has anyone ever wondered where that saying comes from?  Why not the TOP of my heart?)

I worked hard today, think I’ll try the vanilla pudding – I don’t think the grandkids will miss one or two of them.

What’s Important Here – Part 4
Article by: Jim “Gymbeaux” Brown, 9/9/2005

Another day, another life’s lesson learned!  Just when I thought I had seen it all, comes Keller Williams International and more specifically Keller Cares.  Yesterday I attended a meeting of the Gulf States Region that consisted of those Operating Partners, Team Leaders and Market Center Administrators that could make it to Baton Rouge – that in itself was a daunting task with limited gasoline, bridges out, road blocks and what have you.   Each Market Center briefed us on how they were coping, what kind of damage they sustained and how the individual agents made out. 

I did not have a lot to offer since I have been unable to talk with most of my agents.  In fact as of yesterday, I had been able to account for only 50 of the 70 agents in the Slidell Market Center.  That was yesterday, today is today and I am in Birmingham when suddenly I have been able to contact more and more of my crew.  This has turned out to be one of the toughest days of my life emotionally.  Call after call I shared in my crews’ trials and tribulations and some of them have been severe.  Some are still missing family members, some had homes completely rendered uninhabitable, some with upwards of 4 feet or more of water in their homes and yet there was an air of optimism even in those hardest hit.

Words fail to describe how it made me feel to report to them the reason for the meeting in Baton Rouge regarding what Keller Cares has already done, is going to do and WILL do for the Keller Williams associates and Market Centers that were adversely affected by Katrina.  Briefly, every Keller Williams associate will be adopted by another associate who will help them get back on their feet.  They will serve as sort of a guide to help them wherever the help is needed.  Each Market Center will also be adopted for the same reason by another Market Center.  Keller Williams Cares has stepped up to the plate and has virtually guaranteed the salaries of all Keller Williams Realty employees and will also help cover some of the operating expenses of those Market Centers in need of help.  The goal?  The survival of every associate and each Market Center.  But it was all exceeded when Mo Anderson announced that every affected Keller Williams Realty associate who was affected by Hurricane Katrina would have $5,000 deposited in their bank account; no questions asked.  What made this promise extra special was that the Keller Cares account had only about $800,000 in the account when the promise was made.  Within the week, associates from all across the country had donated enough money to backup the promise; over $4,000,000.

Amongst all this news about Keller Cares was hidden another wonderful fact and that is that we as a company have just surpassed the 50,000 associate count – loud round of applause please! 

Keller Williams Realty associates and Market Centers have been providing assistance in money, supplies and facilities.  I am sure that in a short time everyone will know what everyone has been doing and I think everyone will be absolutely blown away at the response our company has provided its “family members.” 

There is one recurring thought that crosses my mind during times of crisis and that is “Oh but for the grace of God, there go I.”  I have felt that way during 9/11, the recent floods in the far east, etc.  It was always someone else, not me and for that I had been grateful.  Now it is US, my crew and the crews of the other affected Market Centers.  Words fail to describe the emotions that permeated the meeting room when Mo Anderson asked each of us to stand and hold each other’s hand while she said a prayer for us and our recovery.  It is NOT just about us – it is truly about the Keller Williams Realty family and one member of the family is hurting everyone is hurting.

I am not an emotional kind of guy or at least I thought I wasn’t.  But today when making these calls I discovered that I am not the macho man I thought I was.  I was emotionally caught off guard to first hear the voices of my crew that I had not been able to talk with for over a week.  Then to hear their stories, wow!  When I asked the Keller Williams Realty Market Center in Birmingham if I could use their space, they immediately introduced me to everyone in the office from the Operating Partner, Team Leader, Market Center Administrator to associates.  It was then I met Ken and Linda Hankins.  Ken was counting up all the nickels, dimes, quarters and bills that had been collected in coffee cans on behalf of Keller Williams Realty associates.  Linda then told me that she and Ken were donating 10% of every sale they make to Keller Cares.  I had to leave the room!  So much for being a macho kind of guy.

This is going on all over the country.  Never have I been so proud to work for a company as caring as Keller Williams.  We will all have our stories to tell in the future about Hurricane Katrina but no story will be as moving or compelling as the response that was initialed by Mo Anderson and her team of angels in Austin and other Market Centers and associates around the country.  This is one very grateful Team Leader/Broker and I think I can speak for the associates in the Slidell Market Center (and probably the other affected Centers as well) when I say thank you.  I sincerely hope that no one is ever  in the need of help as we have but if you do, your/our company will obviously rise to the occasion and respond as it has over the past week.  Everyone should pat themselves on the back – we will survive and come back stronger than ever but we could not have done it without the support of Keller Williams.

May God bless each and everyone of you!

I’m Not Making This Up!
Article by: Jim “Gymbeaux” Brown, 9/16/2005

It’s late; it’s been a long drive home from the Mega Management Camp conducted by Keller Williams Realty University in Austin, Texas.  Before I tell you my story, let me preface it with a follow up on the series of articles of “After Katrina” and “What Is Important Here.”

I did not want to miss this opportunity to learn more about Keller Williams Realty so even though my Market Center was recovering from Katrina, I decided to attend Mega Camp if for no other reason than to demonstrate that life goes on and we need to get back to “normal” whatever “normal” really is.  So I went.  As I sit here at midnight I am not sure it was the right thing to do.  The training and presentations were great, no they were magnificent.  I had the opportunity to listen to Dr. Fred Grosse who I had the pleasure of meeting and hearing almost 15 years ago.  I could not believe how many of his principles and sayings I have been using over the years and had forgotten from where they came – he was worth the trip!

The real reason I wanted to attend is that if you want to walk the walk, you must first learn to talk the talk and there is no better place to learn the talk than where it is taught – at Keller Williams University.  Reading about it simply is not the same.  Hearing it, hearing others describe how they use it and how it benefits them and their market centers, how it has not only helped to retain great associates, it also has improved production and profitability.  What is IT?

It is the culture of Keller Williams.  It is not simply memorizing the WI4C2TS or the Mission, Vision and Values of the company, it is literally becoming those things in everything you do.  Walking the walk!  One of the most unique results of this session was the development of a Keller Williams Agent (I prefer Associate) Bill of Rights/Declaration of Distinction.  Everyone is going to applaud this effort when it is published.

OK, so what’s my story?  From the moment I first arrived in Austin, I quickly became overwhelmed with emotion from the outpouring of support from our Keller Williams Family Members from all parts of North America including Canada.  I cannot begin to tell you how many people said they had been praying for us.  I cannot tell you how many people said they had read my Nuggets For The Noggin and used them in their Market Centers and had not had a chance to say thank you.  One Team Leader told me that for two days she thought she would never get the opportunity to say thank you and that since we all survived, she would never let an opportunity to say thank you to anyone ever pass again.  I think that was the beginning of the end for me; emotionally speaking.

Mo Anderson asked several of us from the Gulf States Region to have lunch with her and some very special guests who donated thousands and thousands of dollars to Keller Cares.  Everyone had a chance to talk and we talked about Keller Cares and the stories from the Gulf Coast.  It was not an easy conversation.  Everyone was crying.

Then at the beginning of each session after a break, Mark Willis would ask people to come to the microphone and tell everyone their Big Aha or their Action Plan for when they get back to their Market Centers.  I wanted to use that opportunity to say thank you on behalf of my crew and the rest of the Gulf States Market Centers.  Easier said than done!  I just couldn’t get the words out.  Words simply did not do justice to what 52,000 of our team mates have been doing for the Gulf States Region.  I wanted to say just two words, thank you and they just wouldn’t come out of my mouth.  I got some semblance of “thank you” out and said that I wanted to dedicate the recovery of the Slidell Market Center to Mo Anderson.  I have learned a great deal from Dr. John C. Maxwell and he advocates that if you want to succeed at anything, dedicate the outcome to someone special and at this moment in time there is no one more special than Mo Anderson and her team of angels!

OK, I made it through that ordeal, on a scale of 1 to 10, I probably hit a minus 4 for being suave and debonair, and in fact I was more like Art Carney.  Then as if I needed it, Mo asked me to sit on a panel in front of 400+ fellow team leaders and operating partners and talk about Keller Cares and Katrina.  I sat there but I could not talk.  The entire time Mo stood beside me and rubbed my back – that was the good part – wanted to tell her she had about two hours to stop it!  Driving home I tried to remember what I said but whatever I said I am not sure people understood it.  I was a complete mess, not an easy thing to admit.

Just for the record, the attendees at this conference donated well over $200,000 for Keller Cares and they announced that our agent count is now over 52,000 – large round of applause please.

Now for those who read this and who were in attendance, let me say what I really wanted to say but couldn’t.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart and the hearts of over 700 of your Keller Williams Realty Associates most of whom you have never met but did not let that stand in the way of your contribution to their recovery.

Yes, I was emotional, OK, VERY emotional but it was not for what you think.  Yes, the stories are sad and they took their toll on me over the past couple of weeks.  I was emotional because it was just so hard to believe the emotional support, the support in supplies and the financial support that everyone was so eager to provide.  It was just overwhelming and I did not deal with it very well and for that I am truly sorry.  I wanted to tell you just how much it means to my crew as I am sure it means to the other Market Centers affected and their crews.

Because there were so many Team Leaders in the room, I wanted to tell them how helpless I felt when I heard the horror stories of my crew and that I had not prepared myself very well for. 

I wanted to tell them not to wait for a disaster to hit to get prepared.  Create a plan.  Grab your TL and MCA computers and take them with you.  Make sure you have a list of everyone and their contact numbers.  Make sure you enter everyone in the member section of your Market Center Intranet Site so you can access it from any computer with internet access.  Create a contact phone number away from the afflicted area were everyone knows to call to report in.  These are the lessons I wanted to talk about but couldn’t and it was an opportunity lost and for that I am really very sorry.

I called one of my crew who I knew was in trouble with her home to see if she had heard from Keller Cares and she said yes but that she COULD NOT TALK ABOUT IT!  She simply said, I am sure glad I am with Keller Williams!”

So back to my story.  I am driving home; not feeling very good about myself and my behavior.  Did not listen to Gary Keller, Dave Jenks or John Maxwell on this trip home, I listened to my XM Radio tuned to Watercolors and smooth jazz.  As Dr. Fred suggested, I also put the windows down and let the wind blow my hair.  You may or may not believe the rest of this story but I swear to you that it is true.

I remember telling Mo at lunch that my concern and I am sure the concern of everyone in the Gulf States Region was the uncertainty of the future.  What will the future bring?  How many of my crew will decide to go elsewhere or pack it in?  What will the market be like?

Then I remember Joe Tye who said, “Adversity is a quiet teacher.  You must probe it for the meaning it contains, and interpret the subtle answers with which it will respond.”  He also said, “Courage is to stop worrying about all the possible tomorrows and the trouble they MIGHT bring, and to give your whole attention to the one today in which you always live.”   If there is a more powerful statement I am not sure I have heard it.  The emphasis should be on MIGHT BRING, not WILL BRING!  No one knows what tomorrow will bring but if you expect the best you stand a much better chance of achieving it than if you expect the worst.

So onward I go toward Louisiana.  As I approach the Sabine River, the river that separates Louisiana and Texas, I started to think; wouldn’t it be nice to have some sort of sign that everything will be OK?  That we all will recover from Katrina and while things will never be the same, they will also not be that bad either.  Shortly after that thought what should appear in the window of my mobile university?  A beautiful and perfect rainbow – no kidding – it was there right in front of me as if it were creating an arch into the State of Louisiana.  But it did not stop there!  No sir, on the radio Richard Elliott was playing a song entitled “People make the world go round!”

So I counted my blessings:

  • My wife was safe.
  • My kids were safe.
  • My dog was safe.
  • My golf clubs were safe (I didn’t dare put that number one)
  • My KW crew was safe
  • Our Market Center was safe
  • Keller Cares was on our side in a massive turnout
  • I got a couple of hugs and kisses from Mo Anderson and that is never a bad thing
  • People all over the world prayed for our safety – prayers are always welcomed
  • Mo said we need 7 hugs a day, I had enough hugs over the last two days to take me through Christmas – 2006

Looking ahead, the storm was the easy part; it was over in a short period of time.  Now comes the recovery and there will be achievements and there will be setbacks but we will succeed, all of us in the Gulf States Region.  More importantly, every member of the Keller Williams Realty Family will be proud of their contribution to that recovery and keeping the Keller Williams family INTACT!  There is however, one daunting and impossible task that lies ahead for everyone in the Gulf States Region and that is how do you adequately say thank you?  You might as well try to get toothpaste back into the tube, you would be more successful!

Thank you!  ;-)

After the Storm
Article by: Jim “Gymbeaux” Brown, October 6, 2005

This Nugget was drafted in hopes of preparing others for what happened AFTER Katrina hit the Slidell, Louisiana area.  Some of the below items were to be expected while others came as a complete surprise.

I am not sure who said it but believe it was Zig Ziglar, “Money tends to exaggerate that what we already are!”  By this he meant that if you are caring and compassionate, with additional money in your life you become even more caring and compassionate.  But if you are a greedy SOB, you simply become an even greedier SOB.

If one thing was evident after Katrina, this theory has been proven to be correct.  Here are some of the things that have occurred since Katrina:

  • If there were Purchase Agreements in effect BEFORE Katrina and the home survived, Sellers were trying to find ways to cancel the contract, put the home back on the market because they “felt” their homes were worth more than before Katrina.
  • Purchasers were writing Purchase Agreements that included a contingency that the repairs were to be made by the Seller prior to the Act of Sale which Sellers agreed to do.  Then during the home inspection process they change their mind with the false belief that they don’t have to make repairs because if THIS buyer does not want the home “as is” there are plenty of buyers who are desperate enough to take it “as is” and probably pay more to do so.
  • Real estate agents who prior to Katrina were admired and respected are now hanging up on people, threatening everyone with law suits and have become a general pain in the neck.
  • Buyers and sellers are constantly threatening law suites when contract negotiations do not go their way.
  • Some sellers are accepting offers for less money because the purchaser has a horror story as to what has happened to them and then a second purchaser who offered more gets upset because they did not get the property.
  • Multiple offers abound so if your procedures on handling multiple offers are not in place and everyone understands how to work them, it will only lead to serious legal problems.
  • Everyone wants rental properties and if you are in an area such as Slidell where under normal conditions there are not a lot of rental properties, this becomes a nightmare.
  • Sellers think their home is now worth $20,000, $30,000 to $90,000 more than pre-Katrina prices.  Appraisers are under close scrutiny by the Federal Government NOT to let all cash sales influence their appraisal process.  Therefore the all-cash sales will not influence property values until there are sufficient numbers of cash sales where a trend can be establish.  So over the long term prices may increase but in the short term they will only increase very gradually.
  • Patience is a rare commodity on the part of everyone, buyers, sellers, agents and even Keller Williams' Realty associates.
  • Depression will set in, not if, when.  You need to know this is going to happen and be ready for it.  Traffic is a nightmare.  Slidell still has residents that have not as yet returned even after one month yet the population of our city must be at least double because of all the support workers and people that have come here to stay because their homes in other areas were destroyed.  There are lines to wait in no matter where you go.
  • If your home and business survived while so many others have been devastated, guilt creeps into your thought process, why was I spared?
  • The 80/20 Rule still applies but in reverse.  About 80% of the people accept what happened and what continues to happen and do their best to get into recovery.  The remaining 20% are impatient, rude, do what they can to get what they want when they want it and have little regard for anyone else.

This is a slice of life AFTER Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.  I don’t want to paint an ugly picture because with every day there is one less pile of rubble and another business opening.  Our phones have been ringing off the hook.  Two, three and four calls coming in at the same time – that is a good thing if you can answer them all.  The real estate market, in my opinion, will be very good for some time to come.  Yes there will be shortages but the market is definitely changing.  Prices in this area have been low as compared to other parts of the country and they will most assuredly begin to rise.  There will be tremendous development and repair work ongoing for one or two years (2013 update, turned out to be years and years).  So all things are not all bad.  People are talking to people that they otherwise would not have talked to – that is a good thing.  People are helping people who before Katrina they did not even know. 

I close this Nugget with a true story.  My Call Coordinator was sitting in a line of traffic trying to get off the Interstate and get to work.  This in itself is an ordeal because it could take up to 30 minutes to get off the Interstate.  She noticed two men walking along side the off ramp; one had no shoes and was obviously in pain trying to walk on stones and everything else you see along the side of the roadways of America.  The car in front of her stopped and the driver got out, opened his trunk and handed the fellow a pair of tennis shoes.  The man began to cry on the spot.   A month ago this would not have happened.

Life has changed in Slidell and it will never be quite the same ever again.  In a great many regards, this is a very good change.  And by the way, during the next storm, there are 7 less trees to fall on my home!  And, that is a very good thing!  And if you want even more good news, there are probably a hundred less trees to get in the way of my golf ball and that is FABULOUS NEWS!

Monday, February 4, 2013

What's Your Story?

Nugget For The Noggin

By Jim “Gymbeaux” Brown, February 4, 2013

There is no question that personal stories reinforce what you are trying to accomplish with your family members, your friends and especially your customers.

Stories told to customers seems to have been forgotten in the sales process – telling our customers our story.  When you tell a (short) story about you and/or your company, it establishes a “good feeling” about working with you and/or your company.

What is YOUR story?  What is your Company’s story?  Do you have one or more stories to tell?  Have you been telling your story to your customers?

From her book, Selling With Noble Purpose (NSP), Lisa Earle McLeod suggests that for your story to be compelling, it should:
  • Be true.  100% true.
  • Be Short.  Read in less than 2 minutes and contain no more                     than  300 words.
  • Describe the impact on the customer.  The story does not stop at the event; it describes the consequences as well.
  • Includes vivid details.  Dramatic photos can make it even more powerful.
  • Touch emotions.  Story about human beings whose lives were changed.
  • Supports your NSP (Your Noble Selling Purpose)

For more information about the book and Ms. McLeod, go to her web site at and/or her blog at:

Considering those guidelines, here is a story about Keller Williams Realty from which I recently retired.

I witnessed how some agents, through no fault of their own would get into financial difficulties.  Having served in the U. S. Coast Guard I thought about how the Coast Guard Mutual Assistance Program would come to the rescue of Coast Guard Families because of the many voluntary contributions into the program by Coast Guard personnel.

I suggested to Mo Anderson of Keller Williams Realty that a similar program within Keller Williams Realty would reinforce the company’s belief that its associates are its number one assets by helping members in distress.

Keller Williams created Keller Cares which was very much like the Coast Guard program.  Agents would donate portions of their earned commissions to the fund.  The fun would then be used to provide financial assistance to its agents in time of need.

At the time Hurricane Katrina stuck, the fund had approximately $500,000 in its account.  There were 17 Keller Williams’ offices and well over 700 agents affected by the storm in one way or another.  Mo Anderson announced that each affected agent would have $5000 deposited in his or her account, no questions asked.  (Impact on people)

You do the math.  $5000 times 700 agents equals over 3.5 Million Dollars; the account had only $500,000.  Within a week thousands of Keller Williams agents throughout North America had more than made up the difference.

Now, as Paul Harvey would say, for the rest of the story.  The owners hundreds of Keller Williams offices donated portions of their own profits to be placed into an account from which the 17 affected Keller Williams office could draw from to cover their operating costs during the period immediately following Katrina when few if any of them could conduct their business.  (288 words) (it’s true) (includes vivid details)

The above story covers the five areas that Lisa McLeod indicated to be an important aspect of any story you tell others.  Although not specifically stated in the story, the story also supports my own personal Nobel Selling Purpose, “to help people do what they do to do it better.”

If this is the first time you have heard the Keller Williams “story”, how does it make you feel about Keller Williams Realty and its owners and associates?  It is difficult if not impossible to have anything but good feelings, wouldn’t you say?

What short story can you tell your customers to make them feel good about selecting you and your company?  I think you will agree that it could make a significant difference.