After years in the not-for-profit space, Virgil Jones made the leap into residential real estate — and his growing business is a testament to the power of hard work, building relationships, and continuous learning and growth.
Before transitioning into real estate, Virgil spent 16 years leading educational not-for-profit organizations. In his previous position as CEO of LINK Unlimited Scholars, a scholarship and mentoring organization, Virgil had the opportunity to search for, develop, and build a new headquarters for the organization.
“This experience drew me into real estate,” Virgil explains. “And although I continued to lead LINK for several years after we built this new facility, it piqued my interest in real estate. I learned so much from this experience, and was fortunate to work with top leaders and professionals in the market.”
Seeking a change and knowing that he wanted to pursue an entrepreneurial path, Virgil moved into the real estate space — and interviewed with many different brokerages before finding the right fit.
“I looked at probably five or six different brokerages. I went from small to some of the big-name ones,” Virgil says. “I heard of Baird & Warner, and I knew that it was a very professionally run organization.”
And once he interviewed with the management team at Baird & Warner – Lincoln Park, he was “pretty much sold,” he remembers.
“I walked around the office, got a great feel from it. The materials that they shared with me, their philosophy, their active involvement with giving back — it all just fit well,” Virgil says. “You know, I have two Master’s Degrees. And listening to David Bailey and learning about his career… the professionalism that he exuded and that the office exuded really just impressed me. It felt like it was a good fit.”
Stepping into the real estate space in his 50s, Virgil also appreciated the office’s commitment to ongoing training, he says.
“It was important for me because I’m a little bit older, and I wasn’t as savvy with technology at that time,” he explains. “I wanted to make sure that I had an office that had really good ongoing training in my first years. And Baird & Warner not only had training, but that was one of the things that they treat very, very seriously – not only for the new agents, but on an ongoing basis as well. They’re always keeping agents cutting edge, and that was important to me. There are always people here for me if I have any questions regarding the technical side of things.”
Learning and growing are important to Virgil. In addition to his stewardship in the educational not-for-profit space, Virgil has a Master’s Degree in Theology and a Master of Business Administration — the latter of which he earned around the time he turned 50.
“I was thinking, ‘what am I going to do next in my life?’” he says. Seeing that many of the students in his not-for-profit program were earning higher degrees, Virgil decided to take the next step himself. “I never know what I’m going to do in the future, and I’m always encouraging students to strive for the best and get as much education as possible, so I said ‘why not me?’ And also I knew deep down that I wanted to do something entrepreneurial down the road, so I wanted to be prepared to have that,” he says.
Leading an educational not-for-profit helped give Virgil vital skills for stepping into residential real estate — including the ability to nurture leads by cultivating strong relationships.
“When I was running not-for-profits, I had to raise money; the biggest part of my job was fundraising. Because I had a board, a lot of my leads came from boards as well as my own sphere, my own network,” Virgil says. “I know that your bread and butter in generating leads is really, really marketing. One of the things I know, and that David Bailey has always shared, is to always continue to do lead generation, even though you’re servicing your current clients. That’s the key.”
For Virgil, client service and lead generation all stem from his gift for being authentic and building relationships with people — a skill that served him while recruiting mentors in the educational space, and keeping transactions on track in real estate.
“It’s all about building relationships with people where they have confidence in you, have confidence in your skillset, but also they trust you. I think that’s critical,” Virgil says. “I think the key to being successful is being authentic, being natural, and being able to communicate while also having people feel comfortable around you and ensuring that they trust you.”
“Also, follow-through and communication are critical to being successful,” he adds. “One of the things that I do well is that when I have a client I’m very strong at keeping them abreast of everything along the way and keeping them apprised of the strategy and the process, so that there are no surprises.”
“My goal is to keep all of my team of experts moving on behalf of my clients, from the attorney to the lenders, to make sure things move to closing. Just because you have a deal that doesn’t mean you’re going to close on it because things can fall apart. So my tenacity I guess would be the key to keeping deals together, but also to getting leads, making sure I follow up with those warm leads, turn them into hot leads, and turn them into clients.”
It all plays into Virgil’s philosophy: “Be bold, believe and stay humble!”
“Hard work beats talent every time; talent does not work hard!” Virgil says. “Any challenge is just an opportunity to grow and to do things differently and to pivot, if need be. A setback is just a setup for a comeback. So when you fall, or you have challenges, rise to the occasion. Work harder, get up earlier, do whatever is needed to be successful.”
The experiences of 2020 were a vital reminder of the importance of putting in hard work and keeping the faith, Virgil says.
“One of the things I learned is that, no matter what the situation is — and hopefully there are no pandemics in my lifetime again — let’s not make excuses. Let’s try to figure out how to continue to make adjustments and still be successful and still do our jobs, market, and generate business,” he says. “Part of it is who I am and my personality, I’m a glass-half-full type of person. I’m a man of faith, and my focus spiritually helped. The office was great at pivoting as well, with leadership answering questions for people and really trying to motivate us during that time. David and Negeen were great at educating the office about protocols.”
“And moving forward, even when life gets back to a new normal, don’t let your guard down,” Virgil says. “Continue to work just as hard or even take it up to another notch, another level. That’s how I look at it.”
Looking forward, Virgil’s goal is to double production in 2021, while focusing on living a healthier lifestyle and getting back into traveling post-pandemic. A seasoned traveler, Virgil has visited spots from Greece to West Africa to the Caribbean. Outside of real estate, he enjoys sports, bike riding, movies, and working out. His church home in Chicagoland is New Life Covenant, and he remains an active supporter of LINK Unlimited Scholars and the Arthur J. Schmitt Foundation.
Curious about how the training, support, and services at Baird & Warner – Lincoln Park can help take your business to the next level? Get in touch today to get the conversation started.