By Ken Weingartner
The Road No One Has Traveled
With infectious charisma (and $200 million in sales in half a year), Ken DeLeon is making a name for himself.
Many labels can be affixed to Ken DeLeon. He is a survivor, having overcome a near-fatal accident in which he was a pedestrian struck by a car, as well as beating cancer. He is a successful Realtor, having been the No. 1-ranked agent nationally for Keller Williams Realty International in addition to being No. 1 in Silicon Valley. He is a father, motivational speaker, and author.
But DeLeon does not care much for labels. Except one. Simply being Ken DeLeon.
“What I’ve learned from my life, and all the life lessons, is to have the confidence to be uniquely myself,” says DeLeon, who is based in Palo Alto, California. “Coming so close to death, I stopped caring what other people thought about me. I found that once I stopped caring, the more that people cared to be around me. Everyone wants to be themselves.
“I’m completely who I am with my clients. I don’t act. There is no façade. People are drawn to the genuineness of that.”
DeLeon is unafraid to reveal his insights through a playful personality, whether in ads (such as one where he is posed like The Thinker), or videos (“How Home Buying is Like Techno Dancing”) or in print (his soon-to-be-published memoir is titled “Why Do Bad Things Happen to Sexy People?”).
He knows his personality is not for everyone, which is fine.
“In both business and in life, I think it’s best to create your own path,” says DeLeon. “No one else was doing unique marketing, as well as offering insights and analysis. You can’t worry about trying to appeal to the masses and diluting yourself and your brand. Instead, offer a unique commodity that uses your personal skills and background and then let those who value that flock to you.”
DeLeon, who recorded $200 million in sales in the first half of 2011, strives for a personalized approach, which includes employing a concierge responsible for finding clients the area’s best service providers. His business style is based on an absence of fear of failure.
“The phrase I like is failing forward,” says DeLeon. “I’m constantly taking calculated risks and failing a lot, but failing quickly, and learning from those failures and evolving forward.
“I’ve tried to live a very impactful, fulfilled life where I’m always evolving and growing. I try to live a life so great, I don’t fear death.”
She’s an Aviatrix, a Philanthropist and a Realtor
Brooke Knapp is so down-to-Earth that it’s hard to believe she held more than 100 aviation speed records.
Brooke Knapp’s list of accomplishments resulted from a list of another sort: a catalog of her fears. “At one point in my life I was afraid of everything,” says Knapp, an agent with Sotheby’s International Realty in Beverly Hills. “I was afraid of flying, afraid of public speaking, afraid of being wrong — afraid of almost everything — and I was doing nothing. If I ever was going to lead a normal full life, I had to do something about it.”
What she did was create a list of her fears and played a game she called “no guts, no glory.” She learned to fly, set numerous speed records, raised nearly $1 million for UNICEF with her Flight for World’s Children, and received the Federal Aviation Award for Extraordinary Service from President Ronald Reagan. She became a renowned public speaker. She conquered the business world in a variety of pursuits, including real estate.
“If you’re afraid of something, you have to get out and do it,” says Knapp. “I’ve found that’s the best way to get over anything.”
Knapp’s interest in real estate began as a buyer of properties. In 1996, she joined Sotheby’s International Realty and created a partnership with agent Drew Mandile. Their successes include the sale of Moraga Canyon, more than 260 acres of raw land in Bel Air, and the self-sale of Owlwood and the adjacent Jayne Mansfield Estate. The $35 million transaction was a record.
“No day is the same,” says Knapp. “Every day is different as you face the challenge to help people in the best way you can. My favorite saying is it’s better to be the master of your silence than the prisoner of your words. That pays off in real estate, because it’s really not about us, it’s about our clients and their needs.”
He’s a Contrarian, a Developer and a Humanitarian
Lawrence Citarelli Jr. was recognized by the Dominican Republic for helping less fortunate children in the country.
Lawrence Citarelli Jr. went to the Dominican Republic looking for his place in the sun. What he found was inspiration from his son. Citarelli, the owner/president of First Hampton International Realty on Long Island, N.Y., taking a cue from his son, Lawrence III, over the last four years has sponsored dozens of underprivileged children in the Dominican Republic, helping them off the streets and into schools. For his work, he received a certificate of special congressional recognition from the Dominican government.
“I wanted to find my place in the sun,” says Citarelli. “I fell in love with the people and ended up getting involved in a series of condominium and hotel projects there. But even before that, my son, who was about 4 at the time, saw some of the children there in their underwear and without toys and wanted to bring them some of his toys and clothes when we came back.
“A light bulb went off. I thought, wow, what an opportunity to help those who are less fortunate and teach an invaluable life lesson to my children.”
Philanthropy and karma are just some of the core principles in Citarelli’s business philosophy. He also operates an award-winning design and construction firm, Lawrence III Group, and an acquisitions and development company, CitaDom Holdings. Each of his proprietary projects takes a portion of the return on investment and directs it to less fortunate children in the respective communities.
“The key is not chasing money, but chasing good things,” says Citarelli. “You can go out there and do good in the world and gain dividends that money can’t give you. I try to live that life. We are blessed. My kids [Lawrence III, Emma and Luke] get it and it’s really cool to watch.”