How This Entrepreneur Who Lived In The Ghetto Built A $20 Million Coaching Empire

Tom Ferry was dead broke, bagging groceries and lived in the ghetto. Then he built a $20 million real estate coaching business. This is how it happened.

Tom Ferry | Image: www.MellyLee.com

Tom Ferry was living in the slums of California’s Orange County with a bullet hole in his bedroom window, purple hair on his head and a penchant for punk rock and picking fights. He was 18 and headed for an inglorious life in the rat race, in prison or worse. But apparently, this sort of life wasn’t in the cards for Ferry.

Today, he runs one of the top real-estate coaching empires in the U.S. His company Tom Ferry — Your Coach teaches agents how to make millions by mastering sales and marketing and running their business by design.

“A typical good producer sells five to 30 homes a year,” Ferry rattles off. “Our members are selling 100, 200 or 300 homes per year.”

He has seen 50 percent growth year-over-year for the past three years and was just named the number-one coach in real estate for the third consecutive year.

While Ferry has built a coaching company that makes tens of millions annually, he started off living in “the Compton of Orange County” after his dad kicked him out of the house as a teenager. His new place came with a complimentary bullet hole in the window. “No extra charge,” says Ferry.

This isn’t exactly the storied beginning you’d expect from a guy who runs a successful real-estate coaching empire. So how’d he get there?

Great Role Models Can Make You Rich

When Ferry lived in the ghetto, he had a ton of drive but no direction. He was a bulldozer with no steering wheel. He dropped out of school and became his town’s highest energy… grocery bagger.

A few months in, it got Ferry thinking. “I left my parents house, I’m working 12 to nine, and I just got a GED,” says Ferry. “What’s my path? Is this my life?”

It became clear to him pretty fast that he wanted more: he wanted massive success. The problem was he had no idea how to translate his unbridled drive into actual success. He needed better role models than his fellow grocery baggers.

The good news: he had a perfect potential mentor for massive success. This man lived nearby. He owned the newest Rolls-Royce, Porsche and Mercedes S-Class, and he ran a growing business hungry for new talent.

The bad news: it was the same person who kicked him out of the house.

From Rebel To Real-Estate Rockstar

His dad, Mike Ferry, was a hell of a salesman, and he’d reaped the benefits over his career.

“Some people were raised on sports or school. I was raised by a guy who became Earl Nightingale’s number-one salesperson,” says Ferry of his father, who later went on to manage his thousand-plus sales team.

Nightingale, a motivational radio personality, ran a company that sold life coaching materials. The elder Ferry learned from the master businessman, then went off to start his own real-estate agency. He made a lot of money and then launched his own coaching business. With a big house and even fancier cars, Mike was the picture of success.

The younger Ferry realized his dad was his ideal teacher, and he knew he wanted to one day follow in his dad’s footsteps. The only problem was that the two weren’t speaking.

Teenage Ferry on right. | Image: Tom Ferry
“He said, ‘When you’re serious about life and ready to work your ass off, come talk to me,’” Ferry says.

Pure dumb luck intervened. The day he decided he wanted to work for his dad, he saw him in one of the aisles of the grocery store where he worked. “I ran up to him. I hadn’t seen him in months,” says Ferry. “I said, ‘Dad, I want to run your company.’”

“He said, ‘When you’re serious about life and ready to work your ass off, come talk to me,’” Ferry says.

Snark aside, Mike saw his son’s hunger to change. He started him out at the bottom of the company in the mailroom, where Ferry learned everything from logistics to sales to product creation. Even more importantly, he learned the real estate business back-to-front.

He had the knowledge. He had the drive. But he needed the direction. It came in the form of his father’s passion for motivational materials. Ferry had shunned them a few years earlier, thinking they were stupid. But this time was different.

“When I turned 18, I listened to every motivational coach on the planet,” he says.

He set a goal to run his dad’s company in five years. It took him nine. On the way up, he learned exactly how to turn real-estate agents into real-life millionaires.

Making Agents Millionaires

Ferry earned his chops building his dad’s coaching company. Then, he struck out on his own. That was 12 years ago. Now, he does over $20 million per year at the head of his own real-estate coaching empire.

His success is in large part due to his methods. Ferry takes a comprehensive look at a real estate agent’s life, character and business.

“I have people describe the person who already has the things they want,” says Ferry. “Then, I create a severe accountability system to do the right activities. Severe enough that if they don’t follow through, it’s financially painful or extremely embarrassing.”

An entire ecosystem of related material and a team backs up these motivational exercises. Ferry’s real-estate gurus attack every weak point in the client’s business model. That includes marketing, lead generation, sales skills, mindset, and business planning. Ferry keeps up the heat with continuous coaching, live events, and training seminars. The cost for all of this support is between approximately $7,000 and $27,500. The cost is steep, but the payoff can be huge.

Ferry on stage at his biggest annual event with several thousand people. | Image: Debbie LeFever

Agents’ businesses and lives are completely transformed. Josh Rubin, a Ferry coaching member, sold about 20 homes a year four years ago. After Ferry? He closed 2015 with over 120 homes sold. That kind of growth is life changing for agents paid on commission. Rubin now nets an estimated $5 to $6 million each year.

Another coaching member, Tim Smith, got sucker punched by the recession. He couldn’t sell a home 90 days into the Tom Ferry — Your Coach program. As people stashed cash under mattresses, Smith’s bills mounted. He faced the decision to pay rent, pay an assistant or pay Ferry.

He chose Ferry. The next year he sold 53 homes. Now, he’s the fourth highest producer for real-estate giant Coldwell Banker.

“I have the ability to take a real-estate professional and turn them into the number one agent in their marketplace,” says Ferry. “There are a few people in my space who do the work that I do, but none who do it at the level I do.”

And when Ferry’s members do well, so does he. In 2015, his company did over $20 million in revenue, and he projects to hit $40 million in 2016.

Tom Ferry | Image: www.MellyLee.com

The Housing Market Oracle

Ferry has the unique ability to see ― and act on ― real-estate trends before almost anyone else. He literally eats, breathes, sleeps, and brushes his teeth with the real-estate business.

“I’m incredible at finding products and solutions that can impact what my members are doing in the long-term, and implementing them,” he Ferry. “I was super early on social media and review-based platforms. I knew early on that companies like Zillow would end up using reviews. People thought I was crazy. Agents just didn’t understand services like Zillow yet.”

That intuition has allowed Ferry to forge high-profile partnerships with companies like Bank of America and Zillow, with both billion-dollar CEOs sponsoring his events and retaining him for advice.

He started another company, Ferry Ventures, his investment vehicle, to capitalize on this convergence. The firm invests in forward-thinking real-estate companies. It also founds real-estate companies to drive the industry forward.

But Ferry can’t be everywhere at once ― he can’t personally coach every person who becomes a Tom Ferry — Your Coach member. That’s why when he hires, he looks first to his past success stories. These people are the agents who have done the work, applied the systems and made millions. Now, they’re interested in passing on the knowledge as a Tom Ferry Coach.

That’s Ferry’s secret sauce: he’s learned to scale himself.

Ferry always wanted to give life his all once he found the right direction. And the money and success don’t hurt, either. But for him, real estate is about much more than cold, hard cash.

“Real estate is my dent in the universe.”