By Cindy Clarke
His is a language of competence, of being able to talk, interact, listen and learn through all kinds of different lenses in just about every situation. He has an impressive resume – high school football star, West Point graduate, MBA from Embry Riddle University, captain for the US Special Forces, entrepreneur, author, real estate guru – with a strategically calibrated arsenal of battlefield skills to match. A small-town Texas boy raised on the kind of core family values that the greatest generation was weaned on, with personal responsibility, service and commitment taking the lead, Philip Jalufka cut his teeth on the football field, parlaying his mantra, “no excuses, just solutions,” into what he calls his Life Equation for success.
“I didn’t develop that equation early on,” he admits. “It really didn’t come together until probably 10 years after founding my company, Legacy International,” which he says is not what you want to do if you want to create a solid career path for yourself. “I would argue that if you are going into high school, or college or into your first job, no matter your age, you need a set of pillars, bedrocks, that allow you to operate from on any given day in any given situation. The sooner the better.”
What exactly does he mean by an equation? According to Philip, it’s about building motivated teams through a combination of factors or pillars that make up the equation. “Teams win big,” he explained, with the insight of someone who has experienced it body, mind and soul. And those critical factors? They include passion, training, strategy, and accountability. I stopped him at accountability, lamenting its absence in the pervasive “Me-First” mindset that runs amok in society today, praising its value in developing integrity and character.
Philip believes that accountability in life goes both ways. First you have to be accountable for your own actions and equally you have to hold others around you accountable too. Without it, chaos ensues.
“To be perfectly honest,” he told me, “that until you’re a business owner or a pilot in command of an aircraft, you don’t really realize just how important it is for everybody to do what they say they’re going to do, not just when others are looking, but always, consistently, again and again. Sometimes it’s a lot harder than you think, and easier said than done, but when you instill those parameters in your Life Equation, the accountability factor helps you become unstoppable.”
To underscore his point, Philip has written a book that’s part memoir, part interview, and all heart as he shares personal stories about his life’s journey and the people who influenced him along the way.
“The book, whose title will be revealed with its release on Veteran’s Day, is basically an interview of many people over many years, from high school to West Point to Special Ops to Hall of Famers to business associates, filled with anecdotes, humor and lessons learned about what it takes to have a successful mission in battling life’s challenges,” he explained. “One misstep and it could be all over.”
Listening is critical to your plan for life, he says, a skill that takes practice and focus, as is communication and honest open dialog. Goals are necessary, of course, but you need a strategy and true passion to make them happen. You also need the discipline and drive that keep you moving forward towards your target, no matter what comes your way. He offered that mentors – people who care about what you are doing – are added blessings who can make all the difference in a person’s life.
“Growing up, had I had a mentor or a person who cared about me being a great American or making me a better American, I just wonder how much more I would have accomplished. I ended up being very fortunate, going to the academy, doing well, then being invited into Special Operations. But as I step back now, I think we as a culture haven’t done a great job personally mentoring people since the days of the Greatest Generation who served as role models for the next generations. It’s partly because of the new digital spectrum that has altered our lives so much, and the changing dynamics of families and community ties.”
Philip Jalufka believes in the power of personal possibilities and team work, and has spent a good part of his life demonstrating that commitment. Tenacious on the football field, he attributed much of his prowess to team practices, fine tuning moves, plays and strategies that paid off in games. “If you know anything about Texas, you know that high school football isn’t merely a game. It’s the shining beacon of Friday night lights, where a local kid becomes a hero, a name that is forever etched in the annals of the town’s proud heritage.”
Getting accepted to West Point was also proof of his commitment to setting a goal and going for it.
“Life can move along so smoothly that you don’t realize how easy you have it. Then, one choice, one reaction, one instant, and upheaval occurs,” muses Philip. For him it happened when he was driving home from football practice with a teammate and two friends during his senior year in high school. The driver was in a hurry, carelessly speeding along the country roads when a quick turn of the wheel by his front seat passenger careened their car into a tree to avoid crashing into an oncoming vehicle. The driver and his friends walked away from the accident. Battered and bruised, Philip was rendered unconscious by the impact and first responders had to use the jaws of life to extract him from the car.
He spent a few weeks in the hospital and, except for spending an undetermined amount of time unconscious, his injuries healed with no lingering effects. Life returned to normal for Philip after that until he received a letter that stopped him in his tracks. He had applied to the United States Military Academy at West Point where he planned to play football and graduate to serve his country as an officer in the U.S. Army. He had been waiting for his acceptance letter ever since.
He knew that West Point admissions was complicated and competitive, with hard-won congressional recommendations and other stringent requirements needed for acceptance. He met them hands down. But what he didn’t know was that the Department of Defense Medical Review Board also had to approve his admission to West Point. When Philip’s medical record was submitted to the Board, with the notation that he had been knocked “unconscious for an undetermined amount of time”, his application received a mandatory medical disqualification. He was advised that he would have to wait two years from the incident before he could re-apply.
“Two years is a lifetime to an active, driven teenager,” remembers Philip. “I was derailed. I read and reread the letter that dashed my dreams, desperate to find hope. I had planned to complete my senior year in high school with the crystal-clear view of my future at West Point. But that was no longer an option. Sure, I could attend a college or university, but that didn’t appeal to me in the least. That alternative was an ‘out’ that I wasn’t willing to explore.”
Understandably unhappy but undeterred, he sought out solutions, a tactic he’s lived by ever since. In spite of a spate of setbacks and start-overs, he not only attended West Point, he graduated with the maturity and resolve of a man on a path filled with purpose. As he is quick to say “you can spend time placing blame when something doesn’t go as planned.
But finger-pointing does nothing to fix the mistake. It just delays the fix.”
He honed his determination to succeed in the school of hard knocks, having spent two years in a junior military college, four years at the Academy, and eight years as a commissioned, special operations aviation officer in the US Army, where daily life was rigorous and regimented.
“Success is not random. It isn’t the result of luck. Results come from following a process. In my years of military service and as a member of Special Ops, we trained over and over again in the same exercises and tactics. When a mission needed to be completed in 30 minutes, an additional 30 seconds could make the difference between life and death. Every process had been tested and proven. Every team member followed the process with the exact same precision. Each of us carried identical weapons and ammunition. Actions would be carried out with little or no words, because we each knew that everyone in the battalion followed the process and we could count on them to do what they were supposed to do. Everyone was held accountable for any missteps that happened along the way.”
That he later transitioned to the life of an entrepreneur is yet another reflection of his resolve to achieve a successful mission no matter the challenges.
“It took me until my forties to be able to really understand the dynamics of taking the risk of being entrepreneurial, of taking all those competence factors and layering in another risk in order to gain a measure of reward. I definitely don’t think I was born an entrepreneur, but I received “gifts” from many people who had the entrepreneurial spirit,” he explained.
Now the head of a multi-million-dollar global real estate marketing and consulting services firm specializing in new homes and residential development, Philip learned the business from the bottom up when he landed his first job in sales after leaving the military. “I didn’t know what I was doing, but I knew all about team work and training so I jumped in with both feet and hit the ground running.”
His solutions-oriented training techniques, bottom line focused, top down aligned, ultimately provided the foundation for starting his own business, Legacy International, in 2007 as builders and developers interested in marketing their properties sought out his specialized services. Today, the company boasts a portfolio of active adult, luxury residential, resort and metropolitan master plan communities that has generated over $2 billion in sales revenue to date and includes properties across the Southeastern U.S., Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, Belize, Puerto Rico, Turks and Caicos, the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic. His most recent win puts Legacy International in front of an army of 190,000 real estate brokers, thanks to its affiliation with Keller Williams, renowned as world’s largest real estate technology franchise by agent count with 1,060 offices and more than 182,000 associates worldwide.
In the last three years, the company expanded with the opening of Legacy Performance Capital (LPC), an asset management firm personally resourced with a half-billion-dollar investment by Philip and his high net worth business partner. Their portfolio includes residential real estate assets throughout central Texas and planned development of almost 1,500 new homes. Future goals for his firm include launching a subscription-based, content-rich online fortress for new homes sales professionals, with an eye towards building the largest community on the planet.
Building his enterprise is not the only venture on Philip’s mind these days. He also supports his fellow veterans with jobs at Legacy and charitable donations through Heroes for Freedom, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping veterans and first responders. Since 2008, Philip and the Legacy Organizations have pledged a percentage of every dollar made from sales at all the engaged residential communities to the Foundation in order to resource various Warrior events and personal needs throughout the year. Says Philip, “This initiative allows every Legacy team member to know they are changing lives in meaningful ways.”
What does he attribute his company’s success to?
“Business smarts really come down to the ‘who’ and the ‘what.’ When you start thinking about the ‘where’ is when you become a dynamic entrepreneur. Thinking differently is when you figure out the ‘why.’ Because if you can figure out the motivation, the “why,” all of a sudden everything starts to overlap – or will –for a bigger reason in any given day. My business has been all about real estate ever since I left military service, first as a sales manager for a real estate business, and currently as the founder of Legacy International. Yes, we mentor and train agents, builders and developers to successfully market their properties to homeowners, but what we’re really doing, our ultimate mission, is changing people’s lives. At the heart of all we do are the people we interact with every day, our families, our teammates, our clients and their clients.”
Inspired by his thoughtful, unabashedly genuine answer, we had to ask just one more question. Of all the successful missions and achievements he has logged throughout his life, what does he consider his biggest accomplishment? He didn’t hesitate with his answer.
“My family photo says it all. My family is my absolute most important accomplishment – my wife of almost 28 years whom I married after graduating from West Point, my older daughter who is just finishing up her degree in Mechanical Engineering at Colorado University, Boulder, and my younger daughter who is studying Business Entrepreneurship and playing competitive college golf in California at Cal Poly and hopes to pursue a possible LPGA career. They are my strongest pillar, my greatest blessing and having them by my side is, by far, my proudest achievement.”
All of which has made Philip Jalufka’s legacy so powerful – and unstoppable.