True Grit — Jen True had to claw her way to the top
By Robb Murray in Mankato Magazine – July 2018
When you sit down with Jen True and ask her about the secrets to her success, she’s quick to come up with a few facts about herself.
“I have a lot of grit,” she says. “I don’t give up. I’m incredibly stubborn. And when people tell me I can’t do something, I don’t accept that.”
It takes a little digging, though, to get to the heart of True, to uncover the reasons she is the way she is, and why her success, when you see the whole picture, isn’t that surprising.
In this year’s Best of Mankato voting, True, owner of True Real Estate, was voted Mankato’s Best Realtor. A nice honor; one she wasn’t expecting and didn’t lobby for. But awards like that, for her, are less about acknowledging greatness than they are mileposts in a journey that is ongoing, and one that is rooted in hard work, love of family and a desire make her hometown the best it can be.
So let’s go back a bit, and begin with True’s father, Charles Q. True. Remember that name? Even if you didn’t know the man personally, you may have seen his name in the pages of The Free Press when was still alive. He was a frequent writer of colorful letters to the editor. A former Marine, he was a businessman who took risks. And he was hard on his kids. He loved them, but he was hard on them.
“He raised me tough,” she said. “He made me work and did not spoil me in the least.”
That toughness would pay off as True entered the Real Estate business. Initially, it was slow going for her. And doing it all as a single mother of two boys didn’t make it any easier. She didn’t close on her first sale for six months.
As time went on, though, she built her business personality around integrity, kindness, and genuinely caring about the lives of the people she’s working for. Success didn’t come easily.
“I built my business in a mini-van and then a Volkswagen Jetta, working seven days a week,” she said, “and I’m actually kind of proud of that.”
Raising children and building a Real Estate career aren’t exactly two things that mesh well. But True says she resolved to be as present as possible for her sons. So she scheduled in every hockey game and school activity, just like she’d schedule a house showing. She kept those things private from clients, but missed very little of her sons’ lives.
“There were times when I was getting really busy, and my kids would tell me, ‘Mom, we want you home more.’ … And that was hard,” she said. “We started having more communication and then I would try to cut back.”
She says she also used the services of a number of delivery restaurants.
“They have a lot of memories of Jimmy John’s and Toppers Pizza,” she said. “They grew up on a lot of deliveries. But when I talk about who my biggest supporters are, it was (my sons).”
During some of those years, business wasn’t so good.
“I thought about getting out of the business in 2009,” she said. “I was behind on house payments and down to a point where I was either going to quit or go all in. So I went all in.”
When people were getting out of the business, she said, she looked at that as an opportunity to get ahead. So she got a real estate coach, buckled down and remembered the work ethic her parents taught her.
And things got better. She climbed and clawed her way from the brink of getting out of the business to being one of the top-selling Realtors in town. She was working for a national franchise at the time.
The time eventually came, though, when she wanted something more … and something less.
“I had a real estate team, six agents. But I decided I was just going to go out on my own and not manage people, not have team,” she said. “I just wanted to be Jen True, be my own broker.”
That was Plan A. But when she told her team they were breaking up, one by one they all came back and asked to work with her. So, with the confidence that comes with the fact that people were willing to jump ship to work with her, she changed her mind about being “just Jen.”
She worked with a marketing firm and had a fresh look and marketing plan within weeks of leaving the franchise, and the new True Team launched in January of 2016.
It’s been a challenge, she says, but it’s been worth it. Today, the True Team is actually leading in market share and sales. She’s got 33 agents and three administrative staff. And she’s hoping that, within a year, a few things will happen.
One: True Real Estate brand will expand to bigger markets.
And two: that she can begin to scale back and relax.
Robb Murray is the Features Editor for The Free Press. He can be reached at 344-6386 or email@example.com. Follow Robb on Twitter @FreePressRobb