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Marc Julien of RAAM 21: “Calculated risk has no emotion”

As a cancer survivor, I experienced the physical and emotional destruction a diagnosis and the treatments deliver. It is my mission now to help children who are impacted by the disease. It is unacceptable that kids are subjected to brutal side effects of cancer treatment drugs, which can cause long-term cognitive and cardiac issues. Less […]

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As a cancer survivor, I experienced the physical and emotional destruction a diagnosis and the treatments deliver. It is my mission now to help children who are impacted by the disease. It is unacceptable that kids are subjected to brutal side effects of cancer treatment drugs, which can cause long-term cognitive and cardiac issues. Less than 4% of the federal budget for cancer research is dedicated to childhood cancer.


As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Marc Julien.

Marc is CEO of Marc Julien Homes, a luxury, custom home builder in South Florida and is training for one of the toughest cycling races in the world, the 2021 Race Across America. After beating stage four cancer in 2018, Marc launched a non-profit to help fund childhood cancer treatment research, RAAM 21, and assembled a team to compete with him in the Race Across America, all while overcoming great odds and proving cancer is a calling to achieve more in life.


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

Before starting my career in real estate development, I was working in Montreal on the production side shooting movies and television shows that came to town. Some of the more notable films I worked on are The Sum of All Fears and The Secret Window. However, the hours were unsustainable. I also spent a lot of time worrying when I wasn’t working and didn’t have a contract in place. My brother worked in the real estate development industry and suggested I take control of my destiny instead of allowing others to control mine. From there, we developed a game plan, I learned everything I could about the business and that set me on a path to begin a career in real estate development. I spent two years in Toronto, Canada before moving to Florida to start Marc Julien Homes shortly after that.

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

In August 2008, we bought our first spec property in Delray Beach in a booming real estate market at the time. Little did we know, the United States was on the brink of the Great Recession. By the end of the year, the economy had completely collapsed, General Motors was bankrupt and the banking industry completely fell apart.

Nobody knew the economy would continue to fall apart. It was the worst possible time to start a career in real estate development, but the best learning experience for me personally. I did what I had to do to save money. If that meant digging ditches and sweeping floors, I did it. It forced me to keep a close watch on my budget and only spend money where it counted. We took a fast-paced approach because nobody was building homes at that point, so we priced our first project aggressively. We built our first home under budget, ahead of schedule and sold it in 2010 for a profit. Today, the housing market is strong once again, but my decision-making process is still the same as it was in 2008. What I learned during that time is invaluable. It may mean that I pass on countless deals, but I know my evaluation process will keep me out of trouble when the market correction comes.

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?

After building our first spec home, we built two more homes in 2010 because we thought the economy would rebound quickly. As we know now, it was five years before the market came back. We held on to those houses for nearly two years and lost money on both of them. I learned that sometimes being an optimist can come back to bite you, at least when it comes to home building. I am much more of a realist now, and maintain very optimistic views on life.

Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?

We currently are sponsoring a team that will compete in the 2021 “Race Across America” (RAAM). We started a non-profit organization for this initiative, RAAM 21, to raise funds for childhood cancer treatment research.

When I was diagnosed with stage four cancer, I prepared for the worst and was terrified wondering what would happen to my wife and newborn daughter if I didn’t survive. To get through the hundreds of needles, radiation treatments and chemotherapy sessions, I made a promise to myself that once I was healthy, I was going to challenge myself to achieve something totally out of the box.

I created a team of eight perfect strangers, each impacted by cancer in their own way, who are joining me to prove cancer is a calling to achieve more in life. Together, we’ll compete in RAAM this June, which is a 3,000-mile cross-country cycling race starting in Oceanside, California and ending in Annapolis, Maryland. It’s considered one of cycling’s toughest ultra-endurance events. We plan to complete the race in just over 5 days.

We are partners with several organizations who make an impact on the local community. One of which is The Achievement Center for Children and Families in Delray Beach, Fla., which is a community based, family-focused organization dedicated to providing opportunities where under-resourced children can thrive in a positive environment.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

The Achievement Center called us a few weeks before Christmas to help a mother and her three children who had been evicted from their home. The center found a new home for the family, but it needed to be entirely overhauled. In two weeks, we completely remodeled the interior, built a new kitchen with new appliances, installed a new HVAC unit, flooring and repainted the entire house. We completed it with furniture and beds so the family could settle in and have a comfortable home for the holidays.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

Every three minutes, somewhere in the world a family receives the devastating news that their child has cancer. While many children survive, the treatment options are harsh and outdated. The long-term effects of current therapies can create severe, life-threatening complications.

This is the driving force behind why we started our non-profit organization, RAAM 21, which will help fund the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s childhood cancer treatment research program. Research requires money. Big pharma companies are among the wealthiest in the world and government needs to put pressure on the industry to fund cancer-related programs that help children. Government can help by offering incentives to pharma companies to develop medications and protocols that can help children.

How do you define “leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leadership is doing whatever it takes to make things happen. I would never ask anything of my team that I would not do myself. With construction, there are always last minute, unexpected issues that come up. If I have to pick up a shovel in order to keep construction going, I would be the first person making it happen. I do whatever it takes to get the job done. I believe my team sees that and in turn they take the same approach in their daily duties.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Calculated risk has no emotion — If a development deal is researched and you do your numbers properly, there is very little risk.
  2. If you can convince someone to invest, you are on the right track.
  3. Nothing in business is personal — never make a negotiation personal. If something doesn’t work out, wish them all the best. Never burn a bridge.
  4. Establish a maximum price you want to pay for the land — always know your maximum before you negotiate a deal. It will keep you from justifying paying more than you should.
  5. Be prepared to walk away — there is no harm in walking away from a deal that just doesn’t seem right.

You are a person of enormous 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. 🙂

As a cancer survivor, I experienced the physical and emotional destruction a diagnosis and the treatments deliver. It is my mission now to help children who are impacted by the disease. It is unacceptable that kids are subjected to brutal side effects of cancer treatment drugs, which can cause long-term cognitive and cardiac issues. Less than 4% of the federal budget for cancer research is dedicated to childhood cancer.

Can you please give us your favorite “life lesson quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Everything in life happens for a reason. Just three weeks after becoming a first-time dad, I received my cancer diagnosis. In a way, it’s the best thing that ever happened to me.

Before cancer, my life was one event, meeting, race and deal — one right after another. Forget about stopping to “smell the roses”, I flew past so fast I never even saw them. My cancer diagnosis and subsequent radiation and chemotherapy treatments forced me to stop everything. It gave me time to reflect on the life I was leading, the person I was at the time and who I wanted to be. It gave me perspective on the meaning of my life. It is why I made the choice to compete in the Race Across America and started our non-profit organization to find promising, less toxic cancer treatments for children.

Is there a person in the world, or in the us with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I would love to have breakfast, lunch or dinner with my Dad. In 2011, he became very ill and passed five and half years ago. It would be fun to show him all the houses we’ve built, but most important, I would love to show him pictures of my wife and children. I wish I could record his voice so my family could hear what he sounded like and could hear his laugh.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can follow our RAAM 21 team as we train for the Race Across America in June 2021on Instagram @RAAM21Ride and on Facebook, RAAM 21. Our website is www.raam21.com.

We are Marc Julien Homes on Instagram; we’re also on Facebook and LinkedIn. Our website is www.marcjulienhomes.com.

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