Your morning routine might involve reviewing your calendar, sending out prospecting emails, tackling a few to-do list items, and scheduling appointments for the week. Don Bell, a Broker Associate with RE/MAX Signature in Port Orange, Florida, does that too – but not until he gets in a round of golf first.
“The better I do in real estate, the more freedom I have.” Don Bell
Like clockwork, Bell wakes up at 5:45 a.m. every day and, unless he has a listing appointment, arrives at the golf course at 7 a.m. When he’s finished, usually around 10:30 a.m., he spends the rest of the day selling real estate. Bell isn’t on the greens for exercise (although that’s a nice side benefit). He’s honing his swing. And it’s paid off, as Bell qualified for the Oasis Championship, a senior PGA Tour event held in February. That same week, he closed three sales. At 55, Bell is a successful real estate agent who also happens to be living out his pro golf dream.
How does Bell mesh his two passions? Through a series of starts and stops, it’s been a balancing act ever since he graduated from Emory University in Atlanta. An athlete throughout high school and college, Bell yearned to go pro. After earning a spot on his college golf team, he transitioned from a math major to a golf pro upon graduation. For the next 15 years, he traveled the world playing hundreds of pro golf tournaments in South Africa, Australia, Europe and the U.S. During that time, he made four starts on the Web.com Tour and one start on the PGA Tour.
The Balancing Act Begins
At 38, Bell stopped playing golf and earned his real estate license. A year later, he got his broker’s license.
“With young kids at home, I needed to make a change so I could provide a stable lifestyle for my family,” Bell says. Married for 22 years, Bell and his wife have three boys, ages 10 to 19. When the boys were younger, he realized that international travel on the golf circuit is tough to sustain as a husband and father.
Since 2003, Bell has been tearing it up as a full-time Realtor. For his first two years, he worked 10 to 12 hours every day except Christmas, putting golf on hold while building his business. He knew he couldn’t sustain the grueling schedule, so after 10 months, he hired an assistant and a buyer’s agent.
“My assistant would handle all the paperwork, fax and input listings, and write up listing agreements. She did the job of four people,” Bell says. “I focused on prospecting, getting papers signed, showing houses and selling.”
Bell has a keen sense for striking a balance between knowing when to pull back and when to go all in. For example, he didn’t let his pro golf dream die once he started a family. He just shifted priorities until the timing was right. “I didn’t start playing golf again until five years after I started building my business,” he says. And he didn’t let an overly demanding schedule become the norm for his business. He knew when it was time to outsource.
His balancing act worked on all fronts. It allowed him to spend more time at home, attend his sons’ baseball and football games, and vacation with his family. By working smarter, Bell is consistently the top agent in his office in dollar volume and transactions closed annually. In 2018, he closed 44 transactions worth $13 million in volume. For three years, he earned a spot in the Chairman’s Club ($500,000-$1 million in commissions). And he’s been a Platinum Club member ($250,000-$500,000 in commissions) for the past 15 years—even when the market crashed. As for golf, he’s back on the greens again—most recently qualifying for that Oasis Championship where he shot an impressive 64.
Do What Drives Your Dreams
What motivates Bell? He focuses on helping people while also achieving the freedom he desires. He consistently thrives through up and down markets, noting, “The better I do at real estate, the more freedom I have.”
Interestingly, Bell is not tied to a time management system. While he does designate Thursday as the day to touch base with his client base, he just keeps doing what needs to be done after his morning golf game. That could mean prospecting, showing properties, networking, prompting referrals, or attending a chamber of commerce function.
“Real estate is similar to golf—one shot at a time, one person at a time. You just have to be doing the right things,” Bell says.
Sometimes, that even means combining the right things—real estate, golf and helping others. For five years, Bell was the main sponsor for the local Rally for a Cure golf tournament benefitting breast cancer research and community programs. He would stand on the 16th hole (a par three), receive a dollar from every player, and hit a shot for them. If he made a hole-in-one, he’d donate $1,000 to the charity.
“I made a hole-in-one every single year,” Bell says proudly.
Work/Life Balance Tips for Agents
“What I love about real estate are the same things I love about golf,” Bell says. “You have to be self-motivated, disciplined and honest but also have a plan and follow the rules.” Plus, he loves that real estate allows for flexible hours.