Written by Cheryl Kenny
Photography by Kim Lindsey
Shaun Lewis is a successful young realtor, a Rising Star with a growing business on track to hit his $6.5 million sales goal for 2018. And he credits it all to being a dad.
“My wife and kids are why I get up and do what I do, and why I got this far,” says Shaun, father to 3-year-old twin sons, Cason and Carter. “Real estate is my business, and I take it very seriously. But it’s hard to say if I’d have the same drive if I weren’t trying to create something for them … if I wasn’t a father.”
Shaun’s parenthood journey has been unexpectedly challenging. His wife, Anika, a registered nurse, became pregnant with twins in 2014, when Shaun was pursuing a master’s degree in education from Jacksonville University. Shaun had been a defensive end at JU, helping lead the team to a 2008 Conference championship. He had hoped to go pro, but when that didn’t happen, he pivoted to pursue a career in sports administration. He held a graduate assistant position with JU’s athletics department, but it was unpaid. So, to meet the financial responsibilities of impending fatherhood, Shaun said goodbye to athletics as a career and took a paying job in the Human Resources field.
The twins were born prematurely and faced myriad health issues. Cason was born with cerebral palsy, and both children faced multiple surgeries. Shaun, frustrated by the difficulties of attending his sons’ many medical appointments within the constraints of his 8-to-5 job, longed for more flexibility and the chance to “do something more.”
“I was always thinking to myself: ‘What is there that I can do, where I get the same feeling I got when I was on the [football] field?’ I always knew I had to do something more. I felt like I had an entrepreneurial spirit.”
Shaun, who has family members in real estate, decided being a realtor could offer the lifestyle he wanted. He started in real estate in 2015, working at two local brokerages before joining his current office, RE/MAX Watermarke, in November 2016.
“Joining RE/MAX was the best decision I ever made because I learned to use systems and procedures to hold myself accountable and structure my day,” he says. “Before RE/MAX, I just worked with a buyer and didn’t do anything to get another buyer. I needed to be consistent, to be looking for the next buyer while I was working with the first buyer. I had to learn to follow up with customers and treat this like an ongoing business, not a customer-by-customer hobby. I turned that corner when I got to RE/ MAX and was around other agents doing it.”
Shaun also learned to balance business with family. “I have to be very disciplined, to keep a calendar and block out times,” he says. “I have to let my wife know exactly what’s going on and be up to date. I couldn’t do what I do without her.”
Shaun tells his customers he’s a father when he reviews his rules and expectations at initial consults. “I tell them I have twins and a schedule where some nights I can’t stay after 5 because I have to pick up the twins from daycare. Other nights I try to cut off around 7 unless a deal is going. I schedule family around business and business around family, give or take.”
“People usually respect and appreciate that you let them know upfront that you both have boundaries, that you approach it from a business standpoint, and are not just an agent they can call and run ragged,” he adds. “I’ve never had a negative response from clients.”
Shaun has been occasionally taking his boys on showings since they were a year old. “They don’t really understand, but Carter might be able to lead the way through a house, so we go with it,” Shaun laughs.
Shaun describes himself as an “active prospector” who does not buy leads and isn’t big on cold calls. “I like to meet people at open houses. I enjoy the feel of the knock on the door when I do flyers, of forming a relationship with them. I love to create opportunities for myself.”
He also relies heavily on social media. “I post to let people see me doing business and being with my family, hoping they’ll come to me when they buy a house,” he says. “It isn’t who you know, but who knows you.”
Similarly, he finds mailers useful. “Whether I get five seconds of time or the mailer goes straight to the garbage, they at least touch it, and I have been seen.”
Among experiences that taught him the most, Shaun cites a multiple transaction involving a couple going through a messy divorce, requiring him to juggle selling the couple’s home, representing their buyer, and helping the divorcing wife purchase a new home … all while dealing with HOA violations.
“I learned that I have to do due diligence and check permits myself and not rely on a seller’s word about things like an addition or a shed. I learned better ways to communicate with both parties in a divorce; it’s not the same as when everyone is fine and dandy, and on the same page. I learned to always keep the human factor alive, to see my customers for who they are, and that sometimes you’re a friend or a counselor, not just a realtor.”
“It was physically and mentally taxing to get those three transactions to close,” he admits. “I came home one night and sat on the floor in the bedroom and prayed for God to help me get to the end. But because I know so much more now, I could do it again.”
Shaun once dubbed himself a “lifestyle designer” as a joke during a training session on elevator pitches, but he has come to stand by that description. “I said it as a conversation starter, but it really is true. The people I work with are going through some kind of change in lifestyle – baby, new job, divorce, empty nester. I really do help people get to the next step to change their lifestyle.”
Shaun and Anika are changing their own lifestyle in light of having a child who will be physically dependent through adulthood. They have purchased a second home about two and a half hours away in Central Florida, in order to be closer to extended family. While Anika and the boys will relocate there full time, Shaun remains committed to the business and relationships he has built with clients in Jacksonville, and will remain here during the week. He will have another agent cover business when he is in Central Florida on weekends. “I will have a little more going back and forth, but I’m still here in Jacksonville … I couldn’t just leave that.”
Fatherhood is a priority for Shaun, a native New Yorker and Yankees fan who “can’t get enough of ESPN,” and loves spending time with his boys and “just being present with them.” In fact, he sees a day when his sons could take over the business he has built.
“That’s my goal,” he says. “To teach my sons the business and to have something that’s mine and that, maybe someday, I can leave to them.”