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Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Getting to know Andy

As your 2020 president for Columbus REALTORS®, Andy Mills has officially taken the reigns of the Association while also pursuing the role of a leading advocate for commercial real estate.

“Better Together” is the theme Andy has selected for this year as we collaborate in exploring new and exciting opportunities.

Here is a little about President Andy — who he is in and outside the industry.

Andy was born in Columbus, Ohio, raised in Clintonville until the second grade, and then moved to Upper Arlington for the remainder of his adolescence. After high school, Andy attended Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, where he graduated with a B.S. in Psychology.

He now lives in Upper Arlington with his wife Mary, 1.5-year old son Luke, and 3-year old golden retriever, Grayton.

How did you get into the real estate industry?
“Long story, but my senior year of college I met the top producer in the country for Northwestern Mutual Insurance, John Dart Wadsworth, who went by the name of “Dartman”. 

I had given his daughter a last-minute ride to the airport my senior year during Christmas break and I wouldn’t let her pay me for the ride. She told me if I wouldn’t take money, her dad would help me get a job.

Sure enough he got me interviews with the Cubs, Blackhawks, Oprah, and numerous other organizations in Chicago. I’d pay to fly to Chicago, and he’d hand me $100 to buy lunch for the person I was meeting with. But before each interview, he would grill me with questions to prep me.

After each interview, we would spend an hour talking about what I liked and didn’t like about the meeting.

On one of my last interviews he introduced me to a 27-year old who had just started a company called @Properties, which was a residential real estate firm, who was converting C-Class office buildings into apartments and condos. 

The founder of @Properties was charismatic and energetic. He offered me an opportunity to join his team, which was only four people at that time. 

I was really intrigued by the job, but nervous as heck to take a 100 percent commission job. I ended up taking a safer option by going with the Department of Defense (DoD) to study high-stakes decision makers. 

I spent three years with the DoD enjoying the people I met and the work, but hating that I had a ceiling in what I could make and my schedule.

After deciding not to go to grad school, I looked up @Properties and found that, in those three years, they had grown to over 100 agents, which got me thinking. 

Around the same time as I decided not to go back to grad school, I ran into Roger Vaughn, founder of CD101, and found out how he flipped land to make money and was able to eventually buy and flip an apartment complex that allowed him to create enough equity to buy and build a radio station. 

Roger introduced me to Wayne Harer, the top office broker in Columbus, who was helping him renew his lease at the time.

It took me about six months of trying to track down Wayne to get a meeting, but that also gave me time to cold-call other commercial firms to understand what my options were. 

Eventually I landed an opportunity with Continental Real Estate Companies working under Wayne Harer.  As Wayne always told me there is a careful balance between being persistent without being annoying.

Amazingly, 15 years later I can’t think of doing anything other than real estate. I love hearing stories from my clients about how they got to where they are and helping them get to where they believe they can go with their real estate.

How would your family and friends describe you?
Depends which ones you ask. Easily excitable. Optimistic. Energetic. Busy. No filter. Hands-on. Helpful. Bad at saying no. Happy. 

Who has made a difference and/or positive influence in your life?
My parents, John & Jan taught me what it means to love unconditionally through action and words, the value of giving back, the value of a dollar (and helped me start my first business in 6th grade), and what it means to sacrifice for those that you love. They also taught me the value of a hand-written note which I hated as a kid because I couldn’t play with gifts until I wrote my thank you notes.  It is the single best business practice I have. 

My sister Laura Moore taught me that what you believe is what you see and what you see is, in turn, what you do. She’s overcome some of the toughest situations a person face from a diagnosis of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis at a young age to being in the subway of the World Trade Center when the first plane hit on 9/11. She is the epitome of how to persevere and she’s the single most inspirational person I know. She communicates her experiences through poetry and started a program at Upper Arlington High School called “UA Idea Day” where she brings entrepreneurs in to talk to high school students about how they got to where they are in their careers. This program is changing young lives in amazing ways. 

My business partner Michael “Fitz” Fitzpatrick. Fitz and I met serving as Chair and Vice Chair of the Woody Hayes Golf Classic Committee. We worked together to bring Lou Holtz to Columbus and helped set a record dollar amount raised for the event in its 35+ year history. I don’t know that I’ve ever met a more generous and thoughtful person who always has others best interest in mind over his own. Fitz sets an example for me daily of how to run and grow a business the right way by always putting the needs of the client first. He also has shown me that you can make time for whatever you decide is important to you. He currently serves as President of three boards, runs three companies and has four kids under the age of 11 — and he coaches all of their sports teams. I’m not sure he sleeps, but he makes me want to be better every day. 
My wife and best friend Mary Curphey Mills is the most patient person I know and the best communicator I’ve ever met. She has a calming effect on my impulsive and excitable personality. She’s an amazing listener and has a heart of gold. I’ve taken on leadership roles with a lot of different organizations and they all take time and energy away from my time with her and Luke.  She’s always been supportive of the things that I’m passionate about and I’m forever grateful for her support, guidance and love.

Hobbies? What do you like to do in your free time? 
I love spending time with my family and friends. I also enjoy: teaching Intro to Real Estate at Ohio State; traveling to new places; volunteering for Nationwide Children’s Hospital; working on service projects for Tri-Village Rotary; going to any live sporting event (especially OSU & CBJ games); reading any biography, business or motivational book; yard work; doing anything outdoors; enjoying live music; and playing golf, basketball and softball. 

What are your goals as 2020 President?
My goals for 2020 are to:

  1. Work with our committees and staff to refine the value-add proposition of our Association. So many of us are faced with dues for multiple organizations and many people get conflicted on where they spend their money, time, and energy. I think we can do better at helping our members understand the importance of not only being a REALTOR®, but also about the importance of getting involved in our Association to help ensure that our industry is still here for the next generation. This also includes improving that message to community.
  2. Continue to strengthen our relationships with local organizations and municipalities to be the voice of anything real estate, especially on issues related to housing affordability.
  3. Find ways to re-engage the commercial members.

Why did you choose the theme “Better Together”?
I’ve never been a person who likes doing things alone. I’ve been on team sports as long as I can remember and the idea of working together to accomplish something is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever experienced in my life. I really do believe that when individuals from different backgrounds and viewpoints come together, the end result is better than if those individuals were to try to accomplish something on their own. 

As an Association we must have the view that we are playing an “infinite game” and that each day, week, month, year we will continue to try to be better than we were the day before.

We can never settle to be the best. We must continue to strive to be better. The only way we do that is together. 

What are you looking forward to most working with the new CEO, John Geha?
John has proven to be a visionary leader that has helped every organization he has led get to the next level. I am most looking forward to learning from a genuine person who knows and understands our industry and who isn’t afraid to think outside the box.

Any challenges you see ahead in 2020? 
I’d love to say, “no” to this question, but the number of challenges that seem to be facing our industry has grown exponentially since I’ve gotten in the business. Technology continues to change how consumers expect information and also how we as REALTORS® conduct our business.

We have to continue to fight to protect our data and educate consumers that a real estate transaction is more than just finding information on a website. 

We also have to continue to donate our money and time to lobby to protect private property rights. 

What do you think is the most pressing issue in real estate on a local and national level? 
There are lots of pressing issues on the advocacy side, but the three bigger items that stand out are:

  1.  Housing affordability. We have to continue to find ways to advocate to create more diversity of housing not only from a rental perspective, but also allows working individuals and families to be able to buy a home in central Ohio; 
  2. We need to continue to work at a local level to find ways to re-engage our commercial membership in our Association while still trying to satisfy bylaws at the national level that don’t align with where commercial members find value;
  3. Last, but not least, we need to continue to advocate to our membership to protect our data. As I mentioned above, we have to continue to fight to protect our data and educate consumers that a real estate transaction is more than just finding information on a website. If we do not find ways to adapt to the technology disruptors and work together to protect our own data, we all risk losing the chance to pass on this profession that we love to the next generation. 

On the national level, housing affordability, commercial membership decline, and the protection of data are all pressing issues, but the advocacy in Washington, D.C. for lawmakers to protect private property rights on a variety of different issues (flood insurance to IRS code 1031) will continue to be a priority in 2020. 

What’s a fun fact that our members probably don’t know about you? 
I ran with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain a few years back and always try to do one thing a year that is on my Life Goal List (some refer to as a bucket list). I made it safely into the arena and did not get gored, although I did see my life flash before me for a split second. 

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