Hiring the right coach prior to real estate: I have a great coach, and I wish I hired him sooner. He’s big on getting me to do video blogs, he pushes me to recruit new agents and he just generally keeps me accountable. An outside perspective on your business can be very helpful. He’s been a big part of Palm Paradise Real Estate’s growth. Professional athletes have coaches to hold them accountable and help them improve their skills. So why shouldn’t everyone have a coach to help them improve in their profession or personal lives?
Many successful people reinvented themselves in a later period in their life. Jeff Bezos worked in Wall Street before he reinvented himself and started Amazon. Sara Blakely sold office supplies before she started Spanx. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was a WWE wrestler before he became a successful actor and filmmaker. Arnold Schwarzenegger went from a bodybuilder, to an actor to a Governor. McDonald’s founder Ray Croc was a milkshake-device salesman before starting the McDonalds franchise in his 50’s.
How does one reinvent themselves? What hurdles have to be overcome to take life in a new direction? How do you overcome those challenges? How do you ignore the naysayers? How do you push through the paralyzing fear?
In this series called “Second Chapters; How I Reinvented Myself In The Second Chapter Of My Life “ we are interviewing successful people who reinvented themselves in a second chapter in life, to share their story and help empower others.
As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Marcus Larrea.
Marcus Larrea is a native of Southwest Florida where he graduated from Florida Gulf Coast University with a Bachelor of Science in Business Management. Marcus furthered his education by obtaining his Master’s in Business Administration at the University of Florida. He is the Co-Founder and Team Lead at Palm Paradise Real Estate in Fort Myers, Florida. He is also the Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Stellar Medical. Marcus is committed to helping the community through his volunteer work in the pharmacy at the Veteran Affairs Clinic where he has been helping veterans for over 12 years. In his free time Marcus enjoys traveling the world, attempting to play golf and spending time with his family, friends and his French Bulldog Bugsy.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
Both of my parents are Cuban immigrants who came to the United States with nothing. They both went to pharmacy school at the University of Florida then moved to Fort Myers in 1984. My dad owned and operated a community pharmacy for 30 years and my mom was a pharmacist at the local VA Hospital. They are the American dream.
My parents wanted to make sure my brother (who’s also now a pharmacist) and I had a better childhood than they did while instilling in us an appreciation for what they had. When I wasn’t in school, I was in the pharmacy helping out. My dad is my hero, and I watched him closely as he interacted with his customers. He taught me the importance of treating everyone with respect and kindness.
When I was 11, I started my first business selling toys on eBay. At that point, my parents knew I was going to be an entrepreneur. I was selling GI Joes, Matchbox cars, Legos, and Star Wars toys. A year later, I even called Hasbro to try to negotiate a distribution deal so I could buy their products wholesale and sell them on my eBay site. Unfortunately, they weren’t interested in doing business with a kid, haha.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Your competition got faster, stronger and smarter today. Did you?” — Original
I say that to myself as a reminder that it’s important to continuously improve. I think growth is particularly important in health, intelligence and character. The minute you stop growing, you start dying. That applies to business, too. If your business is not growing, it’s probably starting to die.
I started a medical device company called Stellar Medical when I was in my early 20s. I was super focused in my first few years, and I missed out on some of my youth. Following my early success, I lost some of my initial fire and motivation. Once I surrounded myself with people who helped me grow (including my now fiancée), I got refocused.
When I got into real estate, I really needed to get faster, stronger and smarter because there are so many agents in the area. I’ve improved massively with leadership (though I still have room for improvement). It’s so rewarding to see agents we bring on succeed. I’m now more of a coach than a producer. I’ve learned you have to constantly be on top of the news and at the forefront of technology.
You have been blessed with much success. In your opinion, what are the top three qualities that you possess that have helped you accomplish so much? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
Not being afraid of the unknown– You have to face your fears. If an idea doesn’t work, learn from the mistake and try again. We still research before we jump, but we don’t know. When we needed to hire an administrative professional, we went through 3 people rather quickly. Every time we hired someone, I improved the process. I increased the salary for the position and I made a list of tasks that needed to be done so they fully understood what the job entailed. I finally set the person up for success. Our 4th person we hired has thrived in that role because they know our expectations and we found someone who matched what we wanted.
Honesty– You have to be honest with clients. If you provide good value, you’ll win their trust. If you win that, you win the sale. The second you’re not honest, you violate that trust. We sell a lot of homes to people moving to Florida from out-of-state. Most of them can’t just fly down here to look at homes. We have to be honest if we see a crack in the ceiling or water damage under the sink during a FaceTime or Zoom call. We don’t want them to put in an offer on a home only for them to come down here and be disappointed.
Perseverance– We were spending a lot of money with Zillow for advertising. We weren’t making back our investment for 2 years. Finally in year 3, we started becoming profitable from those leads. You have to have faith in your long term goals.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about ‘Second Chapters’. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before your Second Chapter?
I received my undergraduate degree in Business Administration and Management from Florida Gulf Coast University. I had to write a business plan in one of my courses. One day, I was having lunch with my dad and a friend who worked as a nuclear pharmacy technician. My friend told me about a medical product called a gold fiducial marker. It’s placed near a tumor to create a target to guide radiation beams during radiation therapy for cancer treatment. The nuclear pharmacy he worked at was selling these gold fiducial markers as a prescription on a per patient basis.
I ran with the idea and we thought that getting FDA clearance to sell the product as a medical device would allow hospitals and surgery centers to stock the items and pull them off the shelf, making the process more efficient. It became my assignment, and with my dad’s guidance, I launched Stellar Medical in 2009. The company was profitable in the first year which is really hard to do. I learned a lot about dealing with the FDA and having proper systems in place. Stellar Medical is still going strong today.
We had a huge advantage from the start. The largest radiation oncology program in the country is based in Southwest Florida, and my dad had a good relationship with them. That was a huge catalyst.
While the company continues to be very successful, I needed more. The medical products we provide serve a great purpose, but I don’t get to see the positive effect they have on doctors and patients. I am also a very social person, and I was confined to a lab with no windows and only two other people.
And how did you “reinvent yourself” in your Second Chapter?
My now-fiancée and I got our real estate licenses together in 2016. She was looking for a career change from the bartending/service industry. I initially did it with her to show support, but I had some interest in it. I got licensed 6 months after she did. I joined a RE/MAX office in town, and I figured out how to market with Zillow. I continued to make money from Stellar Medical, so every dollar I made from real estate was reinvested into the company because I wanted it to grow. Five years later, we have 25 agents. We’ve had massive year-over-year growth.
Can you tell us about the specific trigger that made you decide that you were going to “take the plunge” and make your huge transition?
It really came down to supporting my fiancée. I don’t like to dabble in things. I jump right in. I found it very easy to be successful with real estate, and I enjoyed it. I still do. Every customer’s experience can present a new challenge throughout the transaction process. There’s nothing like seeing the raw emotion, the happiness, when people buy a home.
Being born and raised in Fort Myers has made me really passionate about this area and all of its hidden gems. I call Palm Paradise a concierge real estate service because I love being a resource for clients.
If they need a physician, home renovation or food recommendations, I’m happy to provide that information.
I’m also very fortunate to have a very good right-hand man running Stellar Medical. Had he not been there, I don’t know if I would be able to do this. Having him there made this possible. A lot of the success you have comes back to who you surround yourself with.
What did you do to discover that you had a new skillset inside of you that you haven’t been maximizing? How did you find that and how did you ultimately overcome the barriers to help manifest those powers?
I’m very sociable. That part of me was suppressed. I was working with 2–3 people in an office with no windows. Now, I get to look out an office window and I deal with people on a daily basis. I get to fill that social part while I’m working. I didn’t discover a new skill set. I was just suppressing what I like to do.
I enjoy encouraging agents to step out of their comfort zone. Seeing agents’ success is super rewarding. It’s really brought additional fulfillment to my life and we’re just getting started.
How are things going with this new initiative? We would love to hear some specific examples or stories.
From 2019–2020, we grew our business by 54% in sales volume. Through the first 2 months of 2021, we have already surpassed 50% of our total Gross Sales from 2020.
We brought in 10 agents in the last few months who really fit our culture. We are excited about our growth and our agents are as well. We hope to keep that strong culture and enthusiasm intact.
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?
I still call my dad constantly to tell him what’s going on. He’s my mentor. He’s our family’s rock. I call him daily, whether it’s for advice, to celebrate victories or just to chat.
Dad helped me get Stellar Medical off the ground. He basically helped me get the funding, he was friends with physicians and helped get the customer base going, but he trusted me to get it going and run it. He was very proud of me when I got my real estate business on my own.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
I arrived 5 minutes early for a showing. I rang the doorbell, and no one answered. I went inside and announced myself. A woman in a towel started running down the stairs. No lights were on in the house. She yelled “you’re early!” I went back outside and she met up with me a few minutes later. We got a good laugh out of that.
Did you ever struggle with believing in yourself? If so, how did you overcome that limiting belief about yourself? Can you share a story or example?
No. My mom always said I’m happy-go-lucky. I also believe there’s no challenge I can’t face. I’m not afraid. I heard RE/MAX CEO Adam Contos speak once about his time as a SWAT Tactical Commander. Before a raid, he would speak with his SWAT team about partying with the beast, and that beast is fear. These guys are getting shot at while working. That is their fear. What fears do we have to worry about in sales? Rejection? That pales in comparison. This was something that inspired me.
In my own work I usually encourage my clients to ask for support before they embark on something new. How did you create your support system before you moved to your new chapter?
I’m very fortunate to have family and friends nearby. I have a very strong support system and network in the area. My upbringing has a huge part in that. My parents provided me with a great education and taught me to treat others well. My Catholic faith is also very important to me. The values religion instills in you when you’re developing are priceless.
Chris Hoover is my right-hand man at Stellar Medical. His ability to run the company day-to-day allows me to be more hands-off while I focus on real estate. Aaron Parvey is my real estate partner and handles broker duties. My fiancée, Sarah Sanzica runs our social media and helps onboard new agents while still making her clients the top priority. These people are instrumental in my success.
Starting a new chapter usually means getting out of your comfort zone, how did you do that? Can you share a story or example of that?
I feel like I was out of my comfort zone in my previous career, and I stepped into my comfort zone. Real estate was more natural because it involves more empathy, which is a strength of mine. Buying a home is a very emotional financial purchase. You need to understand people and where they are coming from.
We had a new agent who needed the push to get past fear of not being able to do something. We provided the support and training to help her realize she can do whatever she wants because she can. It just takes the right environment.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
Hiring the right coach prior to real estate- I have a great coach, and I wish I hired him sooner. He’s big on getting me to do video blogs, he pushes me to recruit new agents and he just generally keeps me accountable. An outside perspective on your business can be very helpful. He’s been a big part of Palm Paradise Real Estate’s growth. Professional athletes have coaches to hold them accountable and help them improve their skills. So why shouldn’t everyone have a coach to help them improve in their profession or personal lives?
Recruiting more people sooner- It can promote competition which promotes growth. New agents are doing great. A few of them will be pushing top agents in a year. Friendly competition pushes others to do better. If you increase your number of agents, your sales should also shoot through the roof if you bring in the right people.
Office environment makes a big difference in work happiness- Being in a lab without windows can be a bit depressing. At Palm Paradise Real Estate, we spent a lot of money on a new building with a priority on creating a positive place to work at. Office workspace is more important to plan out than you would think.
Importance of a productive morning huddle- We just started doing them in January. We previously conducted 60-minute monthly meetings, and they were boring. We now do these huddles twice a week from 8:30 to 9:00. We go over big wins, lessons learned, announcements and questions. Wins are personal and business-related. We can learn from each other, share in each others’ successes and allow agents to run the meeting. I’ve really seen a big benefit to it. We can pass information along more quickly and help solve problems.
Spending more time on social media and video creation- It’s still something I’m working on. Social media is free. It’s the cheapest form of advertising. Video touches more senses than reading or listening to something. It allows for more emotional empathy to be shared through tone of voice and body language. Video makes it easier to create a personal connection.
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?
I grew up in Fort Myers, and I love my community, so I want to give back. I am in the process of forming a 501c3 called Palm Paradise Gives Back.
On the second Wednesday of every month, Palm Paradise does a volunteer day at the Community Cooperative Soup Kitchen in Fort Myers. Through our new non-profit, we will collect contributions from agent commissions on each house we sell and donate those funds to the soup kitchen at the end of the year.
We’ll turn our annual holiday party into a charitable event as well. We will collect donations from customers, agents and other guests which will be donated to several other local charities within the community.
We are very blessed that some very prominent 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. 🙂
Mark Cuban. His story is really awesome. He goes against the grain, but he is such a good leader and seems like such a personable human being. I love his passion. Even if something is controversial, he sticks with it if he believes he’s right. He’s willing to take risks to inspire his people.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!