In June the world lost a pioneer, an icon, a gentleman, and a scholar. Bob Helms, a.k.a. “The Godfather of Real Estate”. He was 85 years old. He had been investing in real estate for over seven decades. Even in his 80’s Bob was active, planning, learning, growing, contributing and creating. He authored his book “Be In The Top 1%: A Real Estate Agent’s Guide To Getting Rich In The Investment Property Niche” when he was in his 80’s.
His book isn’t an advertisement, not a business card. It’s not an ego memoir. It’s a contribution, born out of a genuine desire to teach, to share, to pay it forward. We spend so much of our lives deep in the content of living. What was striking about Bob was the context. Bob’s context was contribution. You never got the impression that he was acting out of self-interest.
Bob and I had many deep conversations over the years. But the conversation that stuck foremost in my mind was the very first conversation. He wanted to get to know me. He was genuinely interested in learning about me. He was the quintessential ambassador and made me instantly feel welcome. But I’m not an isolated case. Everyone I speak with who knew Bob had virtually the same first meeting experience. He left that same lasting first impression with everyone he engaged with. Bob was a people’s person. He loved people. It wasn’t an act, or a realtor’s gimmick. His genuine love for people burst through in every interaction. He carried an abundance mindset in an industry that is synonymous with turf wars. He was never insecure about sharing. There would always be enough to go around.
Bob was successful in business in his own right. He helped build one of the largest real estate brokerages in the country out of his home market in Silicon Valley. The wave of growth in Silicon Valley no doubt played a role in his success. There’s nothing like being in the right place at the right time. But Silicon Valley is an incredibly competitive environment and only the best rise to the top.
Bob distinguished himself as an expert in investment properties. He learned early on that a residential home buyer doesn’t generate a lot of repeat business. Active investors on the other hand, are deal junkies. They cultivate a deal flow. A single investor client with repeat business could bring the same level of business as twenty or thirty individual clients. Focus and attention on serving his target clients catapulted his business. These are concepts that are central to marketing in our current time. But think back thirty or forty years and Bob’s work was pioneering.
Bob was well known as the third member of the Real Estate Guys Radio Show duo with his son Robert Helms and Russell Gray. Now in its 24th year, this terrestrial radio show and podcast has listeners in over 190 countries. Whenever Bob was a guest on the show, his elder statesman wisdom shone through.
Bob was a life long student. He took copious notes. Even though retired, he would sit at the back of a seminar with his notebook open, paying close attention and integrating what he was learning.
There was always a lineup of people waiting to talk to Bob, to share their story, to ask Bob for advice. Bob would cut through the fog and get to the heart of the matter, but in the gentlest of ways. He would lead you to a new way of looking at the problem so that the best answer was clear. But he didn’t make you wrong, or naïve, or dumb in the process. He merely illuminated the path.
Bob’s greatest love and accomplishment was his family. He was an integral part of the multi-generational Helms family.
That doesn’t mean there weren’t problems. Of course there were. Everyone in life experiences adversity. There was no drama, no rebellion, only a quiet acceptance and a focus on clarity, learning and moving forward.
The world lost a mentor. The Helms lost their “Papa”. His gentle but impactful manner is part of his legacy.
I have focused the past 9 years of my professional life on real estate investment. This started locally in Canada, and moved quickly into the US markets as the opportunities for great investments presented themselves. This was a right hand turn in my career.
I spent the first 25 years of my career in the high tech industry. My past roles include, Vice President of Engineering at Wavesat, a developer of chips for wireless networks, and Chief Technical Officer at Applied Micro Circuits Corporation, a Silicon Valley based public company that develops processors for use in numerous consumer products including televisions and gaming. I was founder and Chief Operating Officer at Somerset Technologies. I also held several senior roles in marketing and engineering with Tundra Semiconductor. I started my career at Bell Northern Research and Nortel where I designed chips that were used to control the telephone network. For approximately a decade, 54% of the phone calls in North America were routed by a chip that I designed.
I have conducted business in over 15 countries, have forged numerous partnerships, raised capital, been awarded patents, acquired businesses, negotiated deals, lead organizations, and brought about business improvement.
On my 18th trip to Tokyo in a year and a half, it was clear that I was on the wrong path. The way I was working wasn’t right for me, nor for my family. I made the conscious decision to move full-time into the world of real estate investment.
I am having the time of my life, leveraging the accumulated business learning and applying my skills to the world of investments. I live in Ottawa, Canada with my family.