How a Real Estate Developer is Exactly Like a Pro Quarterback

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All of my life, football has played a starring role. I know more than most that in order to be a professional athlete, it takes a significant amount of training, and of discipline. It takes self-confidence and self-belief. And it takes a combination of talent, luck, and charisma.

And for quarterbacks, you might as well say all of this times ten. Quarterbacks are the leaders of their team, and they are under the microscope and feel the pressure more than anyone.

In order to succeed in real estate development, you have to think of yourself as a quarterback, but you must possess the following 3 quarterback traits:

1. Training

Over the years, I’ve had some good people come to me and say “I want to be a developer.” Development is not something you can just learn about in college, or take one course on and call yourself certified. Instead, you have to be able to cultivate certain personal characteristics to prepare yourself for this career, like attention to detail, creating a game plan, executing, maintaining your physical and social health, understanding your community and its politics, and communication

And, ultimately, you must have had a level of success at your previous job. No starting quarterback came out of nowhere: they must have had some sort of notoriety or following in their previous school. For developers, there are certain natural careers that people have previous to becoming developers: finance, brokerage, architecture,  and construction all come to mid.

This is like playing on your college team, or even being drafted and playing. But once you’ve had a successful career, then maybe you can move into the development world, which is quarterbacking all of those particular skill sets from those individuals. In my world, the developer is the quarterback–he calls the plays, and he understands the synergism needed between his teammates.

Why isn’t a developer the coach? Because I’ll tell you: a coach is on the sidelines. A developer likes to be in the game. And that’s a major piece.

A quarterback has been in the game. He’s done those drills, and much like someone from one of these aforementioned careers, he’s seen it from the inside. A developer is knowledgeable, and ready to run the plays and ready to make the tough calls.

Speaking of toughness…

2. Mental Toughness

Real estate development is a significantly risky endeavor and therefore, the weight and responsibility is so high. If you cannot function under pressure at the most needy times, or you can not demonstrate that calm leadership to your “team members” (in this case, to the professional services companies that are looking for you to be the one “shot caller”)–then you cannot be a developer.

It becomes a rare breed of people that can sit there in a line of fire that can be calm and cool. Look at Patrick Mahomes–last season he was down in every single playoff game but he kept breathing, kept running the plays, and came back like it was nothing. We’ve all heard the phrase, “Never let them see you sweat?” Even when someone like Mahomes or Brady has the weight of every single team member, fan, owner on their back–they keep throwing, and they keep on looking cool doing it.

3. Immersed in the Community (or playing the politics)

The root of economic development in all cities starts with real estate development, and that is a very politicized arena. Economic development drives jobs, lifestyle, and schools in this country.

So by its nature, it means that it takes politics, government cooperation, the private sector, and the intersection of all of these things for an area to be developed.

What does that mean for a real estate developer?

It’s participating in your community, having local relationships, and having an understanding of the issues surrounding your community.

In the same way, successful quarterbacks aren’t just about strong arms and being great under pressure. Part of being a wildly successful quarterback is being a good steward, and it’s having a likeability. It’s the overwhelming feeling of your community that you can perform, on and off the field.

You need broad support for you to do your craft. In the stadium it’s the fans.

For the developer it’s the community, elected officials, pastors…the grandma down the street–all of those people are required to get things done.

And what happens when your real estate developer doesn’t have those good relationships?

The same thing that happens when it’s missing from a quarterback. You know the QB’s I’m talking about: he’s been in on several rosters,, he’d been held up to the highest esteem, but then….he drops the ball. He’s losing games. He’s getting bad press. He’s seen as an ineffective leader, and he became this personality and developed a reputation for being out of favor–that he wasn’t that great, didn’t have that confidence anymore.

Nobody wants that person to be their quarterback, and nobody wants that person to be their developer.

They want a Mahomes.

For a developer, it’s all about hope–the belief that it’s our time to grow our city. That’s the guy you want to jump behind as your leader. That’s a different attribute, and it’s one both quarterbacks and real estate developers possess.

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