People first: Mark Spain’s philosophy of success

The real estate mogul transformed his business by focusing on clients’ needs during tough times
Mark Spain speaks to an interviewer during a Terry Leadership Speaker Series event.

Top Georgia realtor Mark Spain (BBA ’93) has a philosophy that’s served him well throughout his high-flying career: work hard and put people before profits.

“My top value is a culture of excellence. Every day, you wake up and try to be your best and put other people’s needs before your own. You always want to be better. It’s never over. You’re always going to be learning your entire life if you want to be the best,” Spain told a packed house at a recent Terry Leadership Speaker Series event.

Spain has been in residential home sales for 22 years, starting at RE/MAX and eventually running his own company, Mark Spain Real Estate, which operates offices in five cities across the Southeast and is the No. 1 most-reviewed real estate company on Zillow.

His ability to adapt to client’s needs during tough times made for a loyal customer base.

“It was a hard time around the Great Recession in 2008. Every meeting revolved around a hardship. There was always a divorce or a loss of a job. Everybody needed to move, but couldn’t. Nobody had any money,” he said. “I saw what people needed. So I did my research and became a short-sale specialist, helping people get out from under a loan when they’re underwater. A lot of people in real estate didn’t want to get into that. It’s not glamorous. But it’s what was needed.”

Spain’s short-sale skills were in demand throughout the mortgage crisis, and when the market boomed back to life, he found he had a solid network of clients who trusted him. It’s also what led him to establish the Mark Spain Foundation, a nonprofit organization that serves families, veterans and communities.

Spain said success depends on not only the customers you serve, but also the people you hire to join you.

“The hardest part is building a team. You never want your team to fall apart,” he said. “I look for people who have a chip on their shoulder, not a Harvard MBA, but something inside of them that makes them get up early and stay up late. Really, it’s about excellence. I want to hire someone who is self-managed, who works hard.”

He ended by giving students advice on handling their first jobs after college.

“My advice: Do the work, be willing to do whatever it takes to succeed. You’re going to start out at the bottom, and that’s OK,” he said. “The best CEOs in the world started at the bottom. Approach every day with humility and never say, ‘That’s not my job.’”