The entrepreneurial seed was planted in Joanne Mills at an early age. “My mother and father are amazing,” she says. “I traveled with them as a kid doing tradeshows around the country and later they opened a deli with my brother. From their example, I always understood the value of working independently and building my own business. I wanted to be an entrepreneur; I just didn’t know how to do it. ”
Mills, a salesperson with EXIT Realty Premier in Massapequa Park, New York, says family comes first and in particular, her parents, Joe Bozza, 96, and Peggy Bozza, “20 years younger, you do the math” have always been her focus. She chose real estate sales as a career thirteen years ago at the urging of her sister-in-law. “I wanted the flexibility to set my own schedule, to work with people and to enjoy unlimited opportunities.”
In the early years, her hard work helped to build independent brokerages and eventually she made the jump to a franchise organization. “I wanted to get better at my business,” she comments, explaining the switch. “When I was working for the independents I was 25% of the business and I was on a 50/50 commission split. Staying there was affecting my pocketbook. In 2007 I started thinking about owning an office so I went to a presentation to learn about EXIT Realty and I didn’t look any further. With the independents, there was limited leadership to help me to be better; I had to figure out the business as I went along. I wanted to be a part of something bigger so I could be better. With EXIT Realty, there was strong, committed leadership and I could make more money, not just with better commission splits, but I could build a business within a business by helping to grow the company without actually having to be an owner. That fueled my entrepreneurial spirit and I saw the unlimited potential, both financially and personally.”
Mills made the switch and quickly began earning a third income stream by taking advantage of EXIT’s unique business model known as the EXIT Formula. Entrenched in EXIT’s philosophy is the belief that the agents are the assets of the corporation. EXIT Realty Corp. International acts as a secondary employer whereby independent contractor real estate agents can supplement their income by helping to grow the company. When they do, EXIT’s Head Office deposits funds onto a debit card, called the EXIT Success Card, which supplements the traditional sources of income in real estate; taking listings and closing transactions.
Eventually Mills’ parents came to live with her and her husband in an apartment on the ground floor of their home. “Once I started having money on my EXIT Success Card, I realized what I could do with it,” she explains. “My parents never asked me for anything, even if they needed money for medicine or to pay bills. I gave my EXIT Success Card to my mom and said, ‘Listen Mom, this is yours, there’s money on it. Money comes in all the time and you can use it for whatever you need. You don’t have to ask’. I wanted my parents to have a cushion and that makes me feel so much better.”
In October of 2012, everything changed. Hurricane Sandy hit the eastern U.S. and devastated coastal communities. “My real estate business has always been on the south shore of Long Island and our home is here. When the storm warnings came, we were supposed to evacuate but my father, 95 at the time, did not want to go.” Mills moved her parents from the ground level up to her part of the home and hunkered down for the storm. “We didn’t take anything out of their part of the house except for their medicine. By Monday night there were over three feet of water inside our house. In my parents’ ground floor apartment, everything was gone. But not only were the contents of their apartment washed away, so was my business. Every home I had under contract couldn’t close. Every listing I had on the market couldn’t sell.
“We had no heat. My husband bought a generator so we could wrap my father in electric blankets; the refrigerator wasn’t even on but my father had electricity.” Despite her efforts, her father became ill and her parents went to stay with her brother in Virginia. “They were gone, the house was gone and my business was gone. Through the rest of October, November, December and January, I had no real estate closings and therefore no commission checks coming in. The only income I had came via the EXIT Success Card which my mom had left for me. Up until then, I understood on the surface the value of the EXIT Formula but I didn’t really ‘get it’. Even though I couldn’t work, the money was still coming in. I was able to buy food and pay my mortgage. Eventually we repaired my parents’ apartment and on April 14th we brought them home. I gave my mother the EXIT Success Card back.”
Mills is now looking towards her future with EXIT Realty. “In other real estate companies I was just helping a buyer or listing a house. While I love doing that, with EXIT Realty, there’s so much more. EXIT opened my eyes to the professional career of real estate sales. I’m helping to grow the company with the EXIT Formula and being rewarded financially for it. In addition there are so many avenues for growth in this industry that I didn’t know existed until EXIT opened my eyes. I am the current President of the Women’s Council of REALTORS® Long Island Chapter. I’ve had opportunities to speak nationally and I teach a Tech Tuesday class. I’ve always believed that I have an obligation to teach and help others and I have found that opportunity with EXIT. I would never go anywhere else. Everything I’ve ever wanted is here.”