John Collopy, receiving an award at 2018 R4 from RE/MAX COO Serene Smith and CFO Karri Callaghan, leads one of the largest and most productive brokerages in the country.
Broker/Owner John Collopy reflects on choices, ‘honest introspection’ and the power of giving at one of the network’s largest and most productive brokerages
By Kerrie Lee Brown
Seems like everyone knows John Collopy.
He’s a giant in Midwest real estate circles, renowned – maybe even revered – for his competitive nature and for expanding his powerhouse sales operation to nearly 40 offices in Minnesota and western Wisconsin.
He’s a fixture at RE/MAX events, admired for graciously sharing his strategies at virtually every convention, conference and mastermind group he can get to. And he’s a leader, respected for setting high standards and expectations for the 1,000-plus RE/MAX Results agents who closed more than 24,000 transaction sides for over $6 billion in volume last year – making Collopy’s 31-year-old firm one of the largest and most productive RE/MAX brokerages in the world.
No wonder Walter Schneider, president and co-founder of RE/MAX INTEGRA, refers to Collopy as “one of the brightest minds in the industry.” He influences the influencers.
Yes, seems like everyone knows John Collopy. But very few know the rest of his story. Because, even though he doesn’t hide it, Collopy hasn’t shared that part widely to the public.
Learning from the Past
They say don’t judge a book by its cover. Nothing could be more true.
What most people don’t know is that Collopy has overcome significant obstacles to get where he is today. He has dealt with an abusive alcoholic father, substance addiction from a very young age, jail time, two failed marriages and ongoing depression. A rigorous regimen of therapy, which Collopy says will continue until the day he dies, helps him get through it.
As a result of his personal experiences, this real estate mogul has learned that only he can make things happen. No one can step up to the plate for him.
Despite his calm demeanor, Collopy vividly recalls going through hell and back. It’s made him a firm believer that where you come from is integral to how you choose to live your life.
“If I hadn’t gone through what I did, I wouldn’t have done the work to become more aware of my existence,” Collopy says. “Continuing to work on my behavior has allowed me to become more introspective and build an organization dedicated to helping people.”
Indeed, Collopy has learned to take action and apply what he has experienced in a positive manner. This, he claims, is the key to happiness. He has learned to accept, forgive and move on – and he doesn’t lay blame on or regret his childhood in any way.
“My past is a part of who I am, so I learn from it and move forward. In my case, there was no huge revelation, no lightning bolt that struck me. I just wanted to accept what had happened and use my learnings in a positive way to better myself and help others.”
And that’s exactly what he’s doing. He’s accountable and not taking anything for granted. Today Collopy and his wife, Suki, embrace a big family made up of four kids from her previous marriage, 10 grandchildren, two daughters-in-law, and two sons-in-law.
Change is Good
When asked about his theories on how to change your life and get to the next level in business, Collopy admits he doesn’t have all the answers. He can speak only from experience, and hope that it resonates with others in some way.
“Everyone’s situations are different, but all people can change to be who they want to be,” he says. “You can’t change other people’s behavior, but you can change your own. Even if you need help doing so. Therapy has helped me deal with my demons big-time.”
In fact, one of the biggest cornerstones of his business-planning teachings is the concept of putting yourself first. “It’s all about mindset. If you’re not willing to make your own needs a priority, then there’s no way you’re going to be able to fulfill the needs of others,” Collopy says. “It’s a core belief of mine. The basis of business planning.”
If you’re not willing to make your own needs a priority, then there’s no way you’re going to be able to fulfill the needs of others.” John Collopy
Collopy also believes “honest introspection” is critical to leading a happy life. In other words, examining one’s own conscious thoughts and feelings. He says it’s missing in society today.
“In real estate, very few people have a clue of what they need to do to be successful. So many people claim they want to sell, sell, sell, but almost always, they don’t want to do it,” he says.
When Collopy speaks to real estate hopefuls and brokers across the country, or to his own staff, he remains adamant that a person can’t make 10 calls a day – and then call it a day. “This is where I feel people make too many excuses. Most people don’t want to examine who they really are, what they really want, and what they have to do to get there. It takes work.”
Case in point: Collopy has always been proud of his industrious middle-class, blue-collar upbringing – despite all of his difficulties. He grew up in a household where you were taught not to question things or ask for help. He struggled through tough life lessons as a child with little to no explanation from his parents, and grew up fast. But ultimately, that is what has shaped him into who he is.
According to Collopy, there are a million opportunities out there, if you’re willing to do the work. He says being at the forefront of your life and taking control of your past can only result in growth – and with that belief, he credits his hard-knocks approach to entrepreneurship and business to his inner strength that he has had to build over the years.
“The most important thing you can do for others is lead by example,” he says. “You can support your kids in their academics – not rule them. You can’t wave your finger at them because it’s not going to work out in the end. They won’t know what to do; they have to learn for themselves.”
And that certainly leaves room for consequences.
Collopy’s intuitive values and insights come from a long lineage of disciplined, hard workers who believe in routine and consistency. He says one of the biggest deterrents for his brokerage’s agents is that even though they know what to do (prospect, go on appointments and follow up), they don’t consistently do what they know needs to be done every day. It’s those internal roadblocks that stand in the way – the ones that are “inside us,” not necessarily in front of us.
For instance, when he’s coaching one-on-one, he always asks: “What’s your schedule for working out?” The usual response is: “I have no time.” This is where Collopy strongly disagrees.
“Everyone has a choice. You can always make time,” he says. “It’s a choice to not focus on you. They’re choosing to not work out. Plain and simple.”
The same goes for real estate agents who don’t find their numbers rising but claim they work 80 hours a week. “So many people are delusional and tell themselves goofy stuff to convince themselves they are actually working hard. This is playing the victim.”
Collopy also talks about why people tend to hold themselves back. Potentially it’s from the pressure they put on themselves to be perfect, their upbringing, their beliefs, or the simple fact that they’re just too busy. He likens this to why agents fail in real estate. He says it’s because of their unrealistic expectations of the job.
To rectify this, Collopy insists you need to have a plan. For instance, he hates working out every morning but knows it’s good for his health. So he does it. Reluctantly.
“If my training sessions weren’t in my schedule, I simply wouldn’t do it – even though I know it’s good for me. The same goes for real estate, or any job, eating, your marriage, and so on. The principles remain the same,” he continues. “If you do something for two or three years in a row, it gets easier to keep doing it. You can apply this theory to everything.”
Collopy’s journey has led him to a place where he can finally say he is happy. “I had to find out what was going on in my own head before I had any possibility of figuring out who I was. This took a high degree of forgiveness – and forgiveness gave me freedom.”
Collopy relates this type of honesty and authenticity in his new memoir, “The Reward of Knowing.” This no-holds-barred book reveals details about his turbulent childhood and how he learned to push beyond it.
I have had lots of people come up to me and tell me how much my story reminded them of something they went through, or touched on something that resonated deeply with them. There is no better feeling than that.”John Collopy
“’The Reward of Knowing’ is based on my recollections of what I consider to be the truth. It’s so interesting how I’ve evolved. All of us are a work in progress,” Collopy says. “I just want people to be in tune with who they are and what they want to do – so they can figure out how to get there.”
He hopes that by sharing his message, readers will reflect on their own lives and situations. In fact, all Collopy has ever wanted to do is help people. Writing the book – something he’s thought about since college – was the natural next step.
Collopy’s book, “The Reward of Knowing,” can be found on Amazon and Barnes & Noble in both print and digital formats.
Go Big or Go Home
Becoming an author wasn’t all that Collopy has had on his mind. It’s very important to him to give back to the community.
A few years ago, he founded the Results Foundation, a nonprofit created as a way for RE/MAX Results to provide educational opportunities and support local community organizations such as local Relay for Life, March of Dimes, and Eagles Cancer Telethon, among others.
In 2015, the Results Foundation partnered with the University of Minnesota to create the “Results Foundation – Bill Saunders Memorial Scholarship,” in honor of RE/MAX Results co-founder Bill Saunders. Beneficiaries include a scholarship at the University of Minnesota for academically gifted students from low-income urban communities.
The Results Foundation is designed to give back to the community long after Collopy is gone, with all of the revenue from his companies going directly to the Foundation. The proceeds from sales of his book will flow into the Foundation as well.
“There was a gentleman in the Twin Cities who owned a series of banks and he turned his assets over to his foundation, and in 2016, they put $16 million back into the community,” Collopy says. “I thought this was genius. So we are designing the Results Foundation in a similar way.”
All of the company’s profits will go to the Results Foundation – and in every location RE/MAX Results operates, the Foundation strives to give back to that community. Currently, RE/MAX Results and its affiliate title insurance company, Results Title, along with many of its sales executives, each contribute a portion of closed transactions to the organization.
“Most brokers and agents want the ultimate satisfaction of retiring with huge houses and nice cars. I don’t need more,” Collopy says. “We just want to give back to the community. A lot of people who have heard me speak about this say they have never heard of a real estate company doing this. So I believe I’m the first.”
Collopy credits the success of the Results Foundation to his amazing team. “They know it’s for a good cause.” The plan is to keep growing through fundraising and exciting events – everything from rock concerts to golf tournaments to formal gatherings.
“Our goal is to raise $100,000, then $200,000, then $300,000, and so on. So in 10 years, we would like to grow the Foundation to be a multi-million-dollar organization that helps people. I can’t think of anything better than that. It’s who we are and what we want to do.”
While some people think the concept is a peculiar way to substantiate the legacy of a business, Collopy believes that as the Results Foundation gains more visibility, the real estate community will see it as a good option in the future. He is already hearing of some brokers adopting similar models in their communities.
Clearing a Path
So according to Collopy, there’s no final destination. You just keep moving forward and hope you make a positive impact in some way.
From the Foundation to the book, Collopy wants to help people get back on track, become honest with themselves, have a clear path, and do something productive. He believes “success” depends on the person who is envisioning it.
On this note, he ends our conversation with a simple analogy: “If I was a professional baseball player, it would be my individual stats of a game or the stats of the team that count. But for me, success is getting to where I want to go by acknowledging and forgiving my past, not dwelling on a particular day, because the past significantly impacts the future depending on how you use it.”
And with nearly 40 offices and more than 1,000 Associates, Collopy doesn’t need to prove himself to anyone. He just wants to be remembered as someone who wasn’t afraid to tell the truth and who was determined to help others.
“I am always continuing to learn and grow. We all are.”